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I’d like to know whether the use of “one” - as a gender-neutral pronoun — is used by native speakers often.

For example: “One should always tell the truth, if one wants to be respected.”

Is this a current use or considered old-fashioned?

I know we can say “Someone should always tell the truth, if they want to be respected”

However, I really want to know if the “one” is used nowadays for advice, general statements, or whatnot.

Thank you very much!

(Btw, I am looking for something current, but also formal in order for me to use this in essays or whatever.)

  • Twitterati aside, most people aren't particularly interested in "gender-neutral pronouns". But one (and singular they) have always been around for the contexts you're describing, if you want to avoid the relatively informal tone of you (which almost everyone uses in conversational contexts). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jun 26 at 13:58
  • So the use of “you” is informal, so if I write that in an essay, I might have a lower grade. However, in casual conversations it’s accepted. My question remains: what should I say in formal context s? “One should always tell the truth if one wants to be respected” or “A person should always tell the truth if they want to be respected.” Which is better in an essay, the former or the latter? Thank you! ✨😊 – Nina Jun 26 at 15:13
  • I wouldn't overstate the idea that "generic you" is "informal". I'd say it's no more so than, for example, using contractions such as can't and doesn't. I have no control over what your teachers and exam setters / markers might think, but if they teach / require you to avoid perfectly "natural" usages like that, they're certainly not doing you any favours! – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jun 26 at 15:18
  • Thank you very much for the explanations! A big thank you from Canada 🇨🇦 – Nina Jun 26 at 15:34
  • In the UK there is a slight issue that the most famous user of "one" is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II so you may sound as though you are parodying her. – mdewey Jun 27 at 13:27
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Is this a current use or considered old-fashioned?

"One" is in current use. It's somewhat formal, not usually heard in casual conversation, and therefore seems appropriate for a school essay where they prefer overly wordy verbiage.

Although it may be "gender-neutral", the emphasis is not on that fact. The purpose is to refer to "anyone/everyone".

Let's analyze the example sentence:

One should always tell the truth, if one wants to be respected.

A problem here is the over-use/repetition of a word (although sometimes that can't be avoided).

Improvement:

One should always tell the truth, if they want to be respected.

Good. Although, it might be falling out of the "formal" register, since "they" is not the same as "one". It would be better to find sentences where you could avoid the dilemma entirely.

One should always tell the truth.

Great.

One should always tell the truth, when desirous of approbation.

Old-fashioned, and formal.

Another option:

You should always tell the truth, if you want to be respected.

Ok. Informal, but not extremely so.

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    Using the pronoun twice in a sentence that long does not strike me as even slightly over-use. – Mary Jun 27 at 13:16
  • Thank you so much!! It helped me enormously 😊 – Nina Jun 27 at 17:23
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Yes, "One" is perfectly okay in English although, in my opinion, it is used mostly in formal English rather than in informal, where it can still be sometimes very useful.

Mostly "One" stands for everyone, anyone (mostly followed by "they") l, and "he or she".

Thus your sentence can be rewritten using those three and keep the same meaning:

  • Everyone need to always tell the truth if they want to be respected.
  • If he or she wants to be respected, they should always tell the truth.
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