I am trying to write a sentence in which the character's expression (or tone of voice) turns from surprise to derision. I am trying to write it in this way:

His tone changed from one of surprise to that of derision.

Could you tell me if it is correct, or if the one must be replaced with that? Also show me additional ways to write it.

  • Your example is extremely "unidiomatic". Primarily because we naturally expect the first one to be "paralleled" by another. The effect of switching to that is to imply that the writer wishes to specifically call attention to the fact that there are many "tones of surprise", but only one "tone of derision". Which is a pretty strange idea to want to assert. Mar 7, 2017 at 16:23
  • @FumbleFingers interesting you say that. Because of the contrast I would expect not to repeat "one of" and so I find OP's phrasing to be accurate and even elegant. I'm not saying you're wrong, but I wonder why it sounds pleasing to me even if it is not idiomatic.
    – Andrew
    Mar 7, 2017 at 17:48

1 Answer 1


Actually, the more idiomatic way feels to me to be "from one of _____ to one of _____", with no "that" at all. It isn't wrong to use "that", but it isn't as common. It feels more natural to this US English speaker that an expression is one of X (that is, just an expression of X) than that an expression is that of X (that is, a specific expression of X).

Google Books Search isn't perfect, but it helps us get a feel for how common certain constructions are. For example, if we look up "from one of anger to one of", we find about 256 results. But if we look up "from one of anger to that of", we only get about 8 results. And if we look up "from that of anger to that of", there are only about 5 results. A similar patterns holds if you use surprise or joy or anything else.

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