the difference between words: it and one, them and ones

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Recently there have been a few times I’ve had to explain the difference between the pronouns “it” and “one” to my students, so that’s what I’d like to write about today.

Basically, the difference between using “it” and “one” is about articles (the, a/an). If we use “a/an”, then the pronoun is “one”. If we use “the”, then the pronoun is “it”. We also use “it” with other words such as “this” or “that”. For example:

A: Do you have a pen?

B: Yes, I have one.

_________________________________________________________________

A: Do you have the pen?

B: Yes, I have it.

_________________________________________________________________

A: Would you like to see a diamond ring?

B: Yes, I’d love to see one.

_________________________________________________________________

A: Would you like to see this diamond ring?

B: Yes, I’d love to see it.

We can also use “it” with personal pronouns such as “my”, “your”, etc. For example:

Do you like my sweater? I bought it on sale yesterday.

What’s your name? I’m sorry, but I can’t remember it.

Have you seen Ryan’s new car? I really like it.

Sometimes, when we’re talking about more than one object, we have to use the plural forms “them” and “ones” instead. However, the same general rule applies. Please note that some things we wear have a plural form such as “pants”, “shorts” and “glasses”.  For example:

A: Do you like these pants?

B: Yes, I do. I’ll take them.

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A: Do you like these pants?

B: No, I don’t. Do you have any blue ones?

In these examples, we use “them” in the first example because we’re talking about the pants that the person is holding. We use “ones” in the second example because we’re talking about other pants that may or may not exist. So, the basic difference is that “it” and “them” are pronouns for specific things and “one” and “ones” are pronouns for things in general. Let me give you some more examples of “them” and “ones”.

Do you like French movies? Personally, I really like them.

I don’t like French movies. I think Spanish ones are much more interesting.

I love your glasses! Where did you buy them? I want to get new ones.

I hope this is clear. I know it can be confusing, so my advice, as always, is to memorize sentences and then change the small details in order to learn the English sentence structures. Eventually, your brain will just know when to use “the”, “a/an”, “it”, “one”, etc. Good luck!

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2 Comments »

  1. Chhay MengLeng Said:

    now I understand the different between one and ones.

    • stoneq Said:

      OMG this article totally helps clear up my confusion about the difference between these two words. Thank you so much!


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