I have two sentences:

  • He is not one of us.
  • He is none of us.

While I can clearly understand the first one, does the second one make sense and is it correct?

What is difference here between "not one" and "none"?


The first one makes sense insofar as it means that "He is not a member of our group." The second one does not make sense in the context of the former statement even though "none" comes from Old English and is a per se contraction of "not one". I would not ever say, "He is none of us" to mean that he is not part of our group; I would use "He is none of us" to tell the person that there is not one person here who is the individual that he is looking for. Despite this oddity, most of the time, "not one" and "none" can be used interchangeably. Could one possibly interpret "He is not one of us" and "He is none of us" as equivalent? Yes, one probably could; however, it would cause a lot of confusion. So, to clarify for you, SovereignSun, here is how I, as a native speaker, would interpret the two statements:

"He is not one of us." (He is not in our group.)

"He is none of us." (The person whom you are looking for is not here.)

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    "None of us (is/are) that person whom you are looking for", i.e., "He is none of us." None can be used with a singular verb or a plural verb; however, "not one" can only be used with a singular verb. – Nick Oct 31 '17 at 6:52
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    I'm pretty sure I'm correct. I was born in this language. I know a little French (a lot of vocabulary, but I'm bad at its grammar, constructions, and idioms especially since it's been 8 years since I've used it). Anyway, since I was born surrounded by English, and since I'm finishing my degree in English, this is how I would interpret these two statements. However, remember that English is very flexible, so just because someone says "He is not one of us" when I ask whether the person whom I'm looking for is here, I would understand the meaning from the context of the situation. – Nick Oct 31 '17 at 7:00
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    Yes, English is difficult because of its subtleties. I was born in the language; I am finishing up my degree in it; and I can tell you that every day, I run into either a new word, idiom, or definition of an old word that I hadn't known prior. I also run into strange constructions. There are still many words in English, mostly technical ones, that I only have an idea of, but I couldn't define like scientific words, animals, plants, etc. I'm sure you're the same with your Russian. But I do run into stuff that stumps me, but not too often and I can usually figure it out from context. – Nick Oct 31 '17 at 7:20
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    I like your answer here (and I upvoted it, too), but want to add that “He is none of us” would be a rather odd way to word it, even in the circumstances you describe. I think I’d be much more likely to say something along the lines of, “No one here by that name.” – J.R. Oct 31 '17 at 8:06
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    Because it's a derived from the Old English "nān", which was a contraction of "ne ān", meaning "not one"; it is not a Modern-English contraction, so that's the reason that there is no apostrophe. In Modern English, it doesn't necessarily mean "not one" every single time anymore; most of the times, it does, but it's not necessarily interchangeable always because it has taken on slight variances of "not one"; hence, the reason why "none" can take a singular or plural verb whereas "not one" can only take a singular form. – Nick Oct 31 '17 at 19:33

The meanings are

A. not any member of our group (i.e. no person among those in our group)

{not one} {of us}

We are, none of us, perfect.

We are, not one of us, perfect.

There is, none of us, but has some flaw in his character.

There is, not one of us, but has some flaw in his character.

B. not a member of our group (i.e. does not belong to our group)

{not} {one of us}

He is from another (country, tribe, group, clan, county, ... whatever). He's not one of us.

In the 18th c. and earlier, "none of us" could be used to mean "not one of us", not a member of our group, and the usage has survived in regional dialects.

A stranger, he is. He's none of us.

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    I said my answer was the more modern meaning. He could use it if he wanted to be archaic and I would surely understand him from context clues; however, today, there is a difference. – Nick Oct 31 '17 at 14:34

X is not one of Y means X can't be named Y, but X still exists.

None of X means there isn't any of X.

Saying X is none of Y doesn't typically make sense, unless you use the idiomatic phrases none of your business or none of your concern.

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