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Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Sat Sep 29 17:51:01 UTC 2007

from a Language Log reader:
My wife consistently uses “these ones” where I use “these”, and to my
ear it isn’t quite grammatical.  I figured it was a regional
variation that was likely (since I probably represent a whole class
of people who find her usage jarring) to have become some
commentator’s bugaboo, and that I might learn something from the
usage guides.  But Merriam-Webster’s English Usage is silent on
“these ones”, as is American Heritage Book of English Usage, The
Columbia Guide to Standard American English, and Strunk and White.
Google to the rescue, with the web version of Paul Brian’s Common
Errors in English, but the entry on the web (
~brians/errors/these_ones.html) simply disapproves, with no reasoning
or citations or commentary, so I’ve learned very little.

Is this variation familiar to you, or covered in any of your usage
guides?  Or can you suggest how else I might learn about it?


the variation is indeed familiar to me (for many years now); people
have reported it to me (with disfavor) many times.  but i don't find
it in any of the first 20 usage guides i consulted, despite the fact
that it's an obvious candidate for an Omit Needless Words treatment
-- that is, for a "secondary" appeal to ONW as backing for
disapproval of a non-standard usage.  i'd imagine the facts are
treated in CGEL somewhere, but i haven't found the relevant
discussion yet.

i'm going to go on to talk some about the syntax, but first i'd like
to get my query out to this group: does anyone know of any literature
on this variant?  in particular, any literature on its regional and
social distribution, or on its history?  (it's possible that it's
merely an occasional non-standard variant that turns up via analogy
-- to "this one" -- every so often and then spreads from person to
person without becoming strongly associated with any social identity,
or spreads in this fashion while becoming associated with many
different social identities.)

now, on to the syntax.  first, i'll assume that "those" works like
"these" (and "that" like "this"); this could turn out to be wrong, of

next, i'll label the variants  0 (without "one(s)") and 1 (with "one
(s)"), and i'll distinguish two different uses of the variants -- a
"deictic" (D) use, in which the expressions are accompanied by some
sort of indicating gesture, perhaps just gaze, and an "anaphoric" (A)
use, in which the expressions refer to some entity or entities
established in the preceding discourse.  (undoubtedly, there's more
complexity here, but this is enough to expose some big things that
are going on.)

observation: i doubt very much that my correspondent's wife uses
"these ones" *everywhere* he uses "these". instead, i'll bet that he
uses "these" everywhere she uses "these ones", but that she has both
"these" and "these ones".  the non-standard variant is, i believe,
available only for D uses, not for A uses.  here's the A pattern:,
including the Apl case, in which i think everybody (including my
corresondent's wife) has the 0 variant and *not* the 1 variant.


I didn't buy it, because it was ugly.  [response] This/That is a
strong objection.


I didn't buy it, because it was ugly.  [response] *This/*That one is
a strong objection.


I didn't buy it, because it was ugly and cost too much.  [response]
These/Those are strong objections.


I didn't buy it, because it was ugly and cost too much.  [response]
*These/*Those ones are strong objections.

now for the deictic uses.  assume that the speaker is looking at a
tray of objects and has been asked to choose one, or some..


I'll take this/that.


I'll take this/that one.  [both 0 and 1 are possible, though they're
not truly equivalent.]


I'll take these/those.  [standard variant]


I'll take these/those ones.  [non-standard variant]

(it's entirely possible, even likely, that some speakers with the 1
variant in Dpl also use the 0 variant on some occasions.  even my
correspondent's wife might do this; he's only going to notice her
productions when they differ from his own.  so here's another data
query: has anyone looked at within-speaker variation on this point?)

now to widen the focus a bit: the distribution of 0 and 1 variants
differs from construction to construction.  possessives pattern, i
think, like D this/that: standard 0 (mine/yours/etc.), but non-
standard 1 (my one(s) / your one(s), etc.); i don't know whether the
constructions co-vary within individuals.  to complicate things
further, i think that full-NP possessives are more acceptable in the
1 variant (the professor's one(s)) than possessive pronouns are.

other constructions are like Dsg this/that in allowing both the 0 and
the 1 variant (as above, i'm not claiming that these variants are
truly equivalent):

EACH: Each (one) is flawed.

ANY: Any (one) of them will do.

Adj: You take the red pencil and 'll take the blue (one).  You take
the red pencils and I'll take the blue (ones).

(as far as i know, no one has objected to the 1 variants here, or for
Dsg this/that, on "primary" ONW grounds.  true, you could save a
word, but both variants are standard, so ONW doesn't come up.)

finally, there are determiners for which only the 0 variant is
possible (parallel to A this/that and A these/those), and others for
which only the 1 variant is:

ALL: All are flawed.  *All ones are flawed.

EVERY: *Every is flawed.  Every one is flawed.


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