4

Make new friends, but keep the old.
One is silver, and the other gold.
(A Korean middle school English textbook)

Does one indicate new friends or any of both: new friends or the old ones?

8

It refers to new friends. You have "new friends" and "old friends" mentioned earlier, and then "one" and "the other" referring respectively to the first (new friends) and the second (old friends).

2

Friends you have for a long time are golden, because it's a long special friendship. Silver relationships are new.

One refers to new friends.

1

In that case, one is referring to "new friends," and "the other" to "old [friends]."

1

In general, one could refer to either "new friends" or "old". It is up to the listener to decided which one is silver. It's sort of a mild riddle. Obviously, the composer of the song is trying to suggest the old friends are golden, which implies new friends must be silver.

Don't use this pattern if you want to be specific. This is a song lyric. The precise English would be

 Make new friends, but keep the old. The former is silver and the latter is gold.
1
  • Excellent answer, you're right about the ambiguity. +1! – WendiKidd May 17 '13 at 0:12

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