The case in point is:

If we need to think about a module while we design another, then this characterizes a dependency, even if there is no direct connection between the two.

Is this grammatically correct? Do I need to change the sentence to end it with "between the two of them" or "between them"?

  • It's fine - the two is correctly used here to refer back to two things previously mentioned (a module and another [module]). Aug 29, 2015 at 12:58

2 Answers 2


Numerals can be used where nouns are expected:

"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one."

You don't need to add "of them" after "the two".


This construction is quite common and perfectly acceptable.

Earlier in the sentence, however, the a should be replaced with one:

If we need to think about a one module while we design another ...

One ... another is the standard way of distinguishing two determinate-but-unspecified entities: we are enjoined to Love one another, and we say that One good turn deserves another.

  • 2
    I'm not too sure about that "a" should be replaced with "one". It could be, and stylistically you might prefer that, but I wouldn't put it so strong. Truth to tell, your version wouldn't sit so well with me in this exact context, because in practical terms the primary focus must be on the module we're actually designing. It kinda jars with me to reference that one with the "vague" determiner another while simultaneously referencing the one we're "incidentally" thinking about with a highly specific determiner. Aug 29, 2015 at 13:10
  • 1
    That's to say, if I wanted to use the standard one...another pairing, I'd prefer If while we design one module we need to think about another, then this characterizes a dependency, even if there is no direct connection between the two. Aug 29, 2015 at 13:12
  • @FumbleFingers Hmm ... I agree that your sentence is better; but I disagree about one being "highly specific". I'd call one not a "specific" determiner but the stressed form of a/an (which is an inversion of the historical fact, but you know what I mean). Aug 29, 2015 at 13:36
  • I like stressed form of a for the specific usage we're talking about here (sod the etymology). But to my mind even though it strongly implies no particular one in terms of which one we've started talking about, the "stressed" form also strongly implies that we're intending to focus on that specific one in subsequent text. So I can say If one explanation is simpler than another, it should be the preferred choice - in the sure and certain knowledge that you'll connect it to one, not another. Aug 29, 2015 at 13:39
  • @FumbleFingers Da. But I suspect that's a function of ordering and stress, not 'oneness'. "If this is simpler than that, it should be preferred" will have the same implicature; and in both the implicature can be cancelled. Aug 29, 2015 at 14:29

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