Example sentence:

One time I spent everyday sending letters, pretending to be somebody I wasn't.

My logics is this: one time means only once, but by adding everyday I'm saying that it happened more than once. So the phrase contradicts itself.

But maybe a week or a month can also be considered "one time"?

I'm not sure if I'm wrong, though. If I am, what's a more appropriate word choice?

  • It does sound odd. How about starting the sentence with "For a while ..." instead? Jun 25, 2017 at 11:33
  • 3
    (A while ago / back) I once spent the time pretending to be someone else and I would send letters...
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 25, 2017 at 11:35
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    @Mari-LouA Thanks for the suggestion. I think "A while back" would be suitable too?
    – alex
    Jun 25, 2017 at 11:36
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    Perhaps At one time... would convey what you want.
    – Jim Mack
    Jun 25, 2017 at 11:41
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    I agree with @FumbleFingers. His example is precisely what I would have suggested. Also, he is exactly correct about every day versus everyday. Every day I eat toast versus Eating toast is an everyday activity for me. (This is happening with a lot of other words in English too, e.g. set up versus setup, back yard versus backyard.) Jun 25, 2017 at 15:00

1 Answer 1


Both once and one time can be used to mean formerly and refer to an extended time in the past (seen as a single span of time). The OED offers more than one example, including the following:

He used to read one time. Doesn't he now?

(1971, Whistle in the Dark by T. Murphy)

There used to be a public-house there one time...

(1888, W. Somerset Word-bk by F. T. Elworthy)

In these uses, one time means formerly and not on a single occasion.

So, one time can indeed mean "a week or a month" (to quote your question)–just as once can.

Once/one time, I spent every day sending letters, pretending to be somebody I wasn't.

So yes you can use one time. However, such words as once and formerly are used more often in today's English (these examples with one time might seem a little odd to today's native reader).

As for the date of A Whistle in the Dark, the OED lists the usage as from 1971, a date confirmed by the World Catalog; this work does not have to be in exact accordance with the script of the play apparently performed ten years earlier, and in any case, 1961 is still contemporary English and indeed Drama Online considers Thomas Murphy a "contemporary dramatist."

  • 1
    Murphy actually wrote Whistle in the Dark in 1961, not '71. But imho your cited usage was no more "natural" to mainstream Anglophones then than it is now. Perhaps it survived as a dialectal Irish usage, or perhaps there was supposed to be a "subvocal" at there, I dunno. But I do note that just earlier in the same utterance, the speaker (Dada, an older person?) said I'm reading that now, just before I came over. Again, that might be / have been dialectically credible, but it's certainly not "standard English". Jun 25, 2017 at 15:27

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