One likes to do it oneself.

Who is "one"?

  1. I

  2. one of people in general

  • In the example: the speaker, but 'one' does not mean 'me'. So one would not say "One likes to do it oneself." Jan 11, 2021 at 13:00

2 Answers 2


The royalty/aristocracy of Britain are often characterised as using "one" to mean "I". This has become a rather hackneyed joke amongst comedians.

In every other case "one" is the impersonal pronoun. It is rarely used these days except in formal writing. It would sound pretentious in everyday conversation in my opinion.

Note: I use it occasionally on this website. I never use it in conversation - I would be ridiculed.

  • 4
    In modern times people tend to use 'you' instead of 'one' to mean "people in general" but it still suffers from the same mis-use, especially when objectivizing an unpleasant experience. It sounds jarring to me when someone says "you did this, you thought that" and I am thinking "No, I didn't, please cop to it. It was you." They aren't talking generally. Jan 11, 2021 at 13:15
  • 3
    I have conversations every day at work in which 'one' is not out of place. Jan 11, 2021 at 13:46
  • 1
    @WeatherVane - some people seem incapable of phasing remarks about people in general without using 'you'. I agree that it is annoying. Jan 11, 2021 at 15:22
  • 1
    I don't think that using 'one' sounds pretentious. Not at all. Jan 11, 2021 at 15:24
  • 1
    @MichaelHarvey, Not a problem. But OP might not be aware of the difference between British and American usage. The usage isn't unknown in America, as your example shows. But it is somewhat pretentious --- the kind of thing you say when you're a politician unveiling a statue.
    – The Photon
    Jan 11, 2021 at 18:32

Oxford considers this usage to be that of a grammatical pronoun, and as such it conforms to the third definition in that section: “[third person singular] Used to refer to the speaker, or any person, as representing people in general”. This is in essence your second choice, “one of the people in general”.

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