1. Some children want to challenge themselves by learning a language different from what their parents speak at home.

  2. Some children want to challenge themselves by learning a language different from the one their parents speak at home.

Do the above two sentence mean the same thing? Does the second sentence sound natural to you? If it is natural, I wonder whether "different from the one their parents speak at home" is used to modify "a language".

  • My vote is for the second sentence. The pronoun what in a long sentence might create the confusion of what it applies to. On the other hand, ...the one... makes it clear that we are talking about the language those children's parents speak at home.
    – Maulik V
    Aug 26, 2014 at 9:42
  • They do mean the same thing. The first construction is more colloquial. You'll also find "different to the one...", which is usual in Commonwealth English.
    – MMacD
    Feb 2, 2017 at 16:59

2 Answers 2


Both sentences are correct and mean the same thing. In different from the one their parents speak at home, the one refers back to the language.

  • Are you certain the first one is correct? I am not quite sure, but it seems like it would be more familiar with what replaced by that or that which, and replacing that by what is a feature of several non-standard dialects (e.g. This ain't the beer what I ordered). Aug 27, 2014 at 14:22
  • @NateEldredge A native speaker might address your query, but here "what" is perfect. Aug 27, 2014 at 14:39
  • I am a native speaker and I don't know :-) Aug 27, 2014 at 14:57
  • @NateEldredge I am sorry friend. I have no idea :( Aug 27, 2014 at 16:04
  • @Man_From_India To my (American) ear, the first sentence sounds natural. The second sentence is also correct, but using "the one" to refer to another part of the sentence is becoming unusual in American English. There is a slight difference in meaning between the two sentences. The first sentence does not say how many languages the parents speak at home. The second sentence explicitly says the parents speak one language at home.
    – Jasper
    Aug 27, 2014 at 17:39

The second question is definitely correct and it sounds perfectly natural. The first question is iffy, but it sounds natural too; it wouldn't raise any eyebrows in normal conversation. I'm not sure that it's completely grammatical, but it's not glaringly wrong.

  • 1
    I think the grammar is fine in the first sentence. "What" is a pronoun used to mean a particular thing, e.g. "different from what the audience expected". I suppose the phrase could also be stated as "different from that which their parents speak", but that seems unnecessarily formal.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 29, 2014 at 14:33

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