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1 There is not only one way to solve the question.

2 There is not an only one way to solve the question.

3 There is not the only one way to solve the question.

I think that 1 is correct. 2 maybe correct. 3 is wrong. Do you agree?

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  • 3
    An article is not required in this context. Both (2) and (3) are wrong. Jan 7, 2023 at 10:28
  • I think it would be more natural for a BrE speaker to say "There is more than one way to solve the question" Jan 7, 2023 at 14:04

1 Answer 1

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(1)

As I parse this: 'one way' is a singular noun, qualified by the adjective 'only'. It is singular.

There are indefinite pronouns, including 'no-one', 'someone', 'anyone', and everyone. These refer to zero, one, an undetermined number, or more than one things (people in this case). We could describe 'not only one way' as an indefinite noun phrase. These are also treated as singular, so there is no problem here. So (1) works.

If this sounds confusing, thing of asking the question...

Is there only one way to solve the question?

Yes, there is only one way to solve the question. No, there is no way to solve the question. No, there are no ways to solve the question. No, there are two ways to solve the question.

(2)

We can do without the article. It does not add anything to the sentence. When in doubt, chuck it out. But is it actually wrong?

'There is not a' can be used as an emphatic form of 'there is no', as in " There is not a day that goes by...". This suggests that "There is not [indefinite article] [indefinite noun phrase]..." may be viable. But it is not often used, and the use in (2) feels very odd to me.

(3)

Consider...

This is not the only way to solve the question. This is not a different way to solve the question.

These are both good. 'This' is a definite thing, and can be or not-be another definite thing or another indefinite thing. 'There is not the...' definitely feels wrong. It does not fit the 'There is not a..' construction of the last section. I do not see any simple, knock-down argument for why it is wrong. I could say "'there' is an indefinite dummy subject for the verb 'to be' so it cannot be compared to a definite object". That sounds nice and definitive, but I don't think it actually is. You can have a look at there as a pronoun for more of this sort of thing.

Summary:

I think the original poster is right: (1) is correct, (2) is possibly allowed if you stretch a point, but it is not as good as (1), and (3) is wrong.

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  • New thought: When I was young (sixties), you only wrote contractions in quotes, and my English teachers frowned on it even then. If there is a rule that treats "is not" and "isn't" differently, then that rule is younger than I am. Jan 11, 2023 at 12:49

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