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Is It Correct to Say “Those Ones”?

Many phrases in English work their way into common usage but should be eliminated as your language skills improve. You may use “those ones” in a sentence without a second thought. But is the expression grammatically correct? 

It is incorrect to say “those ones” because it is repetitive and therefore unnecessary. Your sentence dramatically improves by simply using “those” by itself. Always avoid using this phrase since the “ones” or items you refer to are already implied by “those.” “Those ones are my favorite” should be “those are my favorite.”

Digging deeper into this expression identifies why refraining from “those ones” will improve your linguistic skills. A clear understanding of which phrases to use instead of “those ones” will launch your English proficiency to the next level and instantly refine your communication.

What Does “Those Ones” Mean?

“Those ones” means “that group” of items as opposed to “this group” or some other grouping. Both pronouns substitute a plural noun, and the speaker uses “those” to explain where a grouping exists physically or psychologically. The addition of “ones” simply acts as an additional pronoun. 

Let’s look at the meaning of “those” and “ones” individually. First, the phrase is problematic because “those” has a dual function or meaning. As the plural form of “that,” it operates as a determiner and a demonstrative pronoun (source).

As a determiner, it adjectivally distinguishes the noun. As a demonstrative pronoun, it replaces the noun while showing where it spatially resides.

Second, “ones” in this expression operates as a pronoun, meaning it refers to and replaces a specific plural noun. When “those” combines with the plural pronoun “ones,” “those” is a determiner to signal which “ones” are being referenced (source). 

How Do You Use “Those Ones”?

“Those ones” grammatically functions under the rule that a noun follows determiners and demonstratives. The expression remains in common usage because of how natural this relationship sounds to our ears. But you can only use “those ones” when referring to plural nouns somewhat distant from the speaker.

To begin, determiners like “some,” “this,” “that,” “hers,” “his,” “those,” and “these” signal that a noun will follow (source).

This category of words serves a similar purpose to adjectives, describing something about the following noun. But they cannot be modified by inflectional morphemes like “er” or “est.” Instead, their definition is solely tied to their function (source).

We could say, “I would like some chocolate.” The determiner “some,” naturally followed by a noun, determines how much chocolate is needed. Or we could say, “Please take those books.” The determiner “those” followed by the noun “books” functions to distinguish which books should be taken.

Much like its role as a determiner, as a demonstrative pronoun, “those” shows where an object, event, or person resides in relation to the speaker. It also replaces a specific plural noun when the plural objects are clearly understood in context (source). 

Determiners and demonstratives indicate an upcoming noun. Therefore, using “those” in this function is grammatically correct. But since “ones” in this expression also operates as a plural pronoun, the usage becomes excessive and overly verbose (source).

Cluttering your communication with additional pronouns that are already clearly substituted and described is unnecessary.

In other words, technical usage of the determiner/demonstrative “those” before “ones” seems grammatically acceptable, but the phrase does nothing to enhance your meaning and merely consists of two pronouns, both of which are replacing the same plural noun.

When Can You Use “Those Ones”?

In essence, only using the phrase when referencing a plural noun and replacing that plural noun feels evident in context. However, drop the usage of the pronoun “ones” whenever possible.

The concept of plurality remains relatively simple. For example, suppose a plural noun previously appeared in your communication, and you need to distinguish it from other nouns spatially. In that case, you could acceptably replace it with “those ones” even though “those” is sufficient.

In conjunction, using “one” as a pronoun presents several complexities. First, in its singular form, “one” easily lends itself as a numerical pronoun, as in “One of the students will lead the group.”

But using “one” as an impersonal, generic pronoun, as in “One would think the shops would still be open,” typically remains more common in British English. In American English, we traditionally change the impersonal “one” to “you” (source). 

In plurality, “ones” sometimes appears as a pronoun. In a sentence like, “I really like the red ones,” “ones” works well as a plural pronoun, and the adjective “red” specifically determines the “ones” you reference.

But when combined with “those,” simply use the demonstrative pronoun and drop the “ones” (source). “Ones” no longer needs to denote plurality or act as a pronoun because “those” already fulfilled both functions.

“Ones” also doesn’t determine anything further about the noun, and it doesn’t function as a numerical pronoun as it does in its singular form. And as noted, there’s little precedent for using “one” as an impersonal pronoun in American English.

I really like those” relates just as much information as “I really like those ones.” As a side note, other numerical nouns we use with “those” are acceptable because they add context and specificity. “I really like those four” remains an appropriate usage of “those” as a determiner (source).

In What Context Can You Use “Those Ones”?

Regarding situational use, “those ones” refers to plural nouns that are further away from the speaker than other objects. Since “those” acts as the functional pronoun in this expression, focus on the demonstrative pronoun rules, which dictate that demonstratives rely on a distal or proximal relationship to the speaker.

Image by Alena Darmel via Pexels

You can best understand demonstratives in context. They indicate which objects are being noted and depend on a specific frame of reference (source). Divided into two major spatial frames, distal demonstratives describe an object further from the speaker than others. Proximal demonstratives represent an object closer to the speaker than others. 

“That” and “those” fall into the distal category, while “this” and “these” are the corresponding proximal demonstrative pronouns (source). So, for example, if there were a set of apple trees close to you and a group of apple trees across the street, the apple trees close to you are “these” apple trees, while the apple trees across the street are “those” apple trees. 

Demonstrative pronouns like “that” and “those” don’t only describe physical distance, they also denote physiological or perceived distance (source). Since this type of distance is relative to the speaker, demonstrative pronouns play an integral part in communicating this distal or proximal relationship. 

For instance, the sentence “Those ideas are great” gives the understanding that the ideas are somehow psychologically far or distal from the speaker as if the ideas were not the speaker’s own. In contrast, “These ideas are great” means the ideas are somehow near or proximal, perhaps the speaker’s ideas or the ideas of a close group.

When relating an event, the distal demonstratives often denote the past, while the proximal demonstratives refer to the present. For example, “What are you up to these days?” references current events, and “Those days are long gone” speaks about past events (source).

Make sure to reference Is It Correct to Say “These Days”? if you would like to read more about the demonstrative pronoun “these” and the phrase “these days.” 

Using a demonstrative that doesn’t follow these spatial rules is grammatically incorrect. Therefore, in context, “those ones” will always reference a plural noun in distal relation to the speaker.

Using “Those Ones” in a Full Sentence 

Using this phrase in a full sentence reveals just how repetitive the expression sounds. “Those” functions as a determiner followed by the pronoun “ones,” which is grammatically correct but clumsy and superfluous.

The following sentences follow demonstrative spatial rules, and “those ones” replaces plural nouns. Since the phrase replaces a plural noun, you may place it as subject (purple) or object (dark green).

  • Instead of picking the red flowers, I will pick those ones.
  • I never liked those ones because they are too sweet.
  • Which ones? Those ones in the yard.
  • These ones are not as nice as those ones
  • Those ones aren’t mine. 

When Not to Use “Those Ones”

You should avoid using “those ones.” Even in reflexive, informal communication, be aware of specific nouns that the impersonal pronoun “ones” should never replace. And remember, “those ones” can never refer to singular objects or objects that are proximal to the speaker.

As discussed, “those ones” does not represent a high level of linguistic understanding because it muddles communication with excessive pronouns. As such, you should avoid using it altogether.

In general, deciding when to use “those” instead of “these” comes naturally to advanced or fluent English speakers. And replacing “those” with “that” when speaking about singular nouns typically doesn’t present a problem.

“Ones,” however, should never replace certain nouns, like events or ideas, and people or objects that you would never replace with the singular form “one.” 

For instance, to the question “Which days would you like to reserve?” you could not respond with “I would like to reserve those ones,” even though you could conceivably use this response if the noun you replaced were “tables,” not “days.” 

It is also incorrect to respond to “Would you like me to bring out the children?” with “Yes, bring those ones.” American English doesn’t use “ones” as a pronoun for people (source). Since you could use many options instead of “those ones,” avoid the phrase as much as possible. 

What Can You Use Instead of “Those Ones”?

Instead of “those ones,” use “those” alone as a demonstrative pronoun rather than a determiner. You may use “those” as a determiner with a numerical noun or a placement description. And finally, use an adjective to separate “those” and the following noun or pronoun, even the pronoun “ones.”

Image by Talal Hakim via Pexels

See the following table for alternatives to our previous sentence examples.

Full Sentence With “Those Ones” Alternatives
Instead of picking the red flowers, I will pick those ones.Instead of picking the red flowers, I will pick those
Instead of picking the red flowers, I will pick those yellow flowers.
I never liked those ones because they are too sweet.I never liked those because they are too sweet.
I never liked those chocolates because they are too sweet. 
Which ones?Those ones in the yard.Which ones?Those in the yard.
Those on the right side of the yard.
Those three in the yard. 
These ones are not as nice as those ones.These are not as nice as those.
These four are not as nice as those three.
Those ones aren’t mine. Those aren’t mine.
Those red ones aren’t mine. 

Notice that eliminating the pronoun “ones” makes each sentence more impactful and concise. Modifying each sentence with additional determiners or qualifiers is also appropriate. And in the final example, the adjective “red” functions as an additional determiner to the pronoun “ones.” 

This works because “ones” is no longer solely determined by another competing pronoun. In essence, “those” now functions as a determiner to the phrase “red ones,” an entirely new pronoun that can no longer be replaced by “those” alone.

English speakers easily fall into the trap of using the phrase “those ones” because it is grammatically correct to use a determiner followed by a noun. Demonstratives, too, are often followed by nouns. But pausing to rethink reflexive phrases clarifies and improves your communication by eliminating excess verbiage.

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Read the article Is It Correct to Say “These Ones”? for more content on demonstrative pronouns and concise language.

Final Thoughts

Remember that “those” and “ones” reference the same plural noun. You can add extra qualifiers to “those” and “ones” if further clarification is needed. These qualifiers come in the form of spatial descriptors, numerical nouns, adjectives, or other determiners. 

Ultimately, “those” as a demonstrative pronoun effectively fulfills the capacity to describe a distal relationship to the speaker and replace a plural noun. It is not technically incorrect to say “those ones,” but grammar also dictates that content should be as concise as possible. Eliminating “ones” from the expression elevates your communication.