As you learn more about the English language, you will often hear expressions that might be confusing. For example, “Have a good one” is a popular expression in North America and increasingly around the English-speaking world. Still, you may well wonder whether it is polite to use and, if so, what exactly it means.
It’s not rude to say “have a good one” to someone in a casual setting when the context of what you’re referring to is clear. Many young people use the expression simply to mean “goodbye,” but you should be careful not to use it in a formal setting or in a setting where it might be misunderstood or appear insincere.
This article will explore how the saying “have a good one” came about and what it means. We’ll also look at how and when someone should use it and alternatives that may be more suitable.
What Does “Have a Good One” Mean?
Most people use the phrase “have a good one” to mean “have a good day” (source). Interestingly, the people of North America use this expression more than those in countries where they speak British English.
Where Did the Saying “Have a Good One” Come From?
The saying “have a good one” evolved from the original “have a good day.” We can find the earliest evidence of this phrase in “The Knight’s Tale” from Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, where the Knight says, “Fare well, have a good day” (source).
However, it only gathered popularity in the 1970s, where many began to use it widely and often overuse it.
How Do You Use “Have a Good One”?
Originally, people used the phrase in context. In that case, if I was to say to you, “I’m going for a run now,” then you would respond, “Have a good one.” This would then mean “have a good run.” Similarly, I could say, “we’re going to a party,” and your response of “have a good one” would mean “have a good party.”
In these examples, it’s easy to work out what the “one” means in context. Unfortunately, these days, it’s often not clear what “one” stands for, and, for this reason, it can seem trite or insincere.
When Can You Use “Have a Good One”?
As a rule of thumb, you would be safe to use the idiom “have a good one” in a casual environment or among friends. It’s a colloquial saying most prevalent in informal settings, often functioning as a farewell greeting in retail environments.
In What Context Can You Use “Have a Good One”?
You will often hear people who are serving customers end their interaction with “Have a good day” or “Have a good one.” They may also say, “Have a nice day.” These expressions all operate interchangeably.
Because it often comes at the end of a conversation, it’s started to mean “goodbye,” we might often hear young people, in particular, saying “have a good one” when they mean “goodbye.”
The phrase implies familiarity and a shared lifestyle. Most would consider it cool to say “have a good one” in the right environment.
These are all appropriate in the correct context, so remember that there’s nothing wrong with saying “have a good one” if you are interacting casually with people. It also helps if you say it with an upbeat tone that implies some sincerity.
When Not to Use “Have a Good One”
Sometimes it’s not appropriate to say, “have a good one,” usually when it’s unclear what the “one” means.
It’s also important that you use a positive tone; otherwise, it can come across as almost sarcastic. For example, if you say “have a good one” with no conviction, it almost sounds as if you really don’t care if I have a good day or whatever “one” implies.
In a retail context, it often seems very insincere when shop attendants say “have a good one” or even “have a nice day.” In this environment, many people believe it would be better if they simply said “thank you” or “goodbye” rather than being artificial.
As it’s a very informal saying, you should avoid using it in any formal context, such as with your boss or teacher or any person with whom you have a relationship of respect since using “have a good one” implies an assumed familiarity.
What Can You Use Instead of “Have a Good One”?
Instead of saying “have a good one,” you could always be more specific and spell out what the “one” means. For example, you could say, “Have a good holiday” or “have a good run” rather than generically implying that you are referring to a holiday or a run.
The “one” could refer to many things such as a weekend, holiday, show, party, journey, or school year.
If you mean “have a good day,” then it might be an alternative to say something like “Enjoy your day” or “I hope you have a good day” or anything that sounds less formulaic and insincere.
Unfortunately, once the public begins to overuse a phrase, it starts to lose meaning and becomes something that many say with no real thought. For that reason, if you mean “goodbye,” then it could be clearer to say exactly that.
Using “Have a Good One” in a Full Sentence
The phrase “have a good one” is already a full sentence and usually stands on its own. If I was to say, “I’m going to a party now,” then you could respond, “Have a good one.” Unless we were defining the phrase itself (as in this article), we would be unlikely to add any further words or use it in a longer sentence.
Interactions using “have a good one” usually look something like the following.
Person 1: Nice to see you, Bob. I’m off now.
Person 2: Yeah, bye. Have a good one.
Cashier: That will be $14.99.
Store customer: Here you go. Thank you.
Cashier: Have a good one.
Person 1: See you later; I’m off for a game of racquetball now.
Person 2: Hope you have a good one.
Is It Grammatically Correct to Say “Have a Good One”?
You may wonder whether it is grammatically correct to say “have a good one.” When we use the phrase, we use an imperative clause, and it is grammatically correct. This means that we are telling someone to do something.
We use imperative clauses when we want to give an instruction of some sort. For instance, someone will usually use this for orders, advice, suggestions, or requests. Imperative clauses generally don’t have a subject because the person directly addresses someone who understands that they are the subject (source).
We use the base form of the verb when constructing imperative clauses, as we’ve shown in the examples below.
- Have a good one.
- Enjoy your holiday.
- Stop talking!
- Listen to the instructions.
The imperative is a very direct form, and we must be careful how we use it because it can come across as short or rude. If we want to soften it, we can use “please,” “just,” or “do,” as we illustrate below.
- Lend me a hand, please
- Just give me a minute, please.
- Do take your coat off.
More About Imperative Clauses
Broadly speaking, we use imperative clauses to give an order, give an instruction, issue a warning or piece of advice, or make an invitation (source). We can also use imperative clauses in the negative form.
Let’s briefly consider examples of each of those in the table below.
|Give an order||Stop doing that.|
|Give an instruction||Turn left at the intersection.|
Don’t machine-wash that item.
|Issue a warning or advice||Don’t run on the road.|
Remember to take your license with you.
|Make an invitation||Come to my party.|
Have a piece of pie.
Imperative sentences are one of the basic types of sentences in English. There are four types of sentences:
- Declarative sentences
- Interrogative sentences
- Exclamative sentences
- Imperative sentences
Declarative sentences make a statement, while interrogative sentences ask a question. Meanwhile, exclamative sentences make an exclamation, and imperative sentences issue a command.
Matters of Formality and Style
In considering whether it is rude to say “Have a good one,” it’s important to note that matters of formality and style often guide our choice of words in English. For example, many things are acceptable to say in a casual setting with friends that may not be if we intend to present a paper to the company board.
Your choice of formal or informal style will depend on where you are and who your audience is. When we use formal language, we will use business English and complex sentence structures, and we will avoid using personal pronouns or slang (source).
When we use informal language, we can make use of nonstandard English, conversational vocabulary, and simpler sentence structures.
It’s important to use the correct vocabulary in the correct setting. Sometimes expressions may have the same meaning, but we should choose which one we use depending on the context.
In the case of “have a good one,” it may be completely acceptable to say it to your friend as you drive away from a coffee meet-up. However, if you are saying “goodbye” to a business associate, it would be a better choice if you said, “Have a lovely day” or something similar.
Formal vs. Informal
Let’s consider some other expressions that we could say in both formal and informal styles and understand how the context is so important.
- I’m going to hang out with that company’s executives at the banquet.
- I’m going to spend time with that company’s executives at the banquet.
Here, both “hang out” and “spend time” mean the same thing, but the former is a very colloquial expression that would only be appropriate if you were “hanging out” in a casual environment.
With business associates, the choice would always be the second one. Conversely, it would be appropriate to say, “I’m going to hang out with my friends after school today.”
- The chairman is going to check up on his accountant.
- The chairman is going to investigate his accountant.
In this sentence, it should be clear that the first example could only work in a casual environment. In a business context, we would always choose, rather, to say “investigate.”
However, a parent may say, “I’m going to check up on my toddler and make sure he’s gone to sleep,” and it would be entirely appropriate.
When to Use Formal vs. Informal Language
We use informal language when we are being casual and spontaneous. That includes communications with friends and family in both written and spoken forms. The tone is personal, and the content implies some familiarity.
Conversely, we use formal language for professional or academic purposes or any time when we have a relationship of respect with the person to whom we are speaking. In this case, we would choose language appropriate for the context and avoid colloquialisms or anything that sounds overly familiar (source).
Generally, we would also avoid using contractions in formal writing. This means that we would spell out words like “didn’t,” “hasn’t,” or “it’s” and rather use “did not,” “has not,” or “it is.” For more on this, read our article “I’m or I Am: Similarities and Differences in Usage.”
Another tool that we use to make writing more formal is to avoid using personal pronouns. To do this, we often make use of the passive voice. Consider the examples below. This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
- I believe the sum total of our investment is $100 million.
- It is believed that the sum total of our investment is $100 million.
- As you examine the evidence of fraud in the department…
- As the evidence of fraud in the department is examined…
We can conclude that it is not rude to say “have a good one” in and of itself but that we should be very careful that we are saying it in the right environment. For example, it can seem very offhand to use the phrase when its meaning is empty or it’s unclear what the “one” refers to.
Also, if we are in a formal environment, it wouldn’t be the correct expression to choose.
In English, it’s important to remember that context is so important and that we should choose more formal language if there is any doubt that our listeners or readers may misunderstand us or we may potentially cause offense.
Even if formal language may sound stuffy, it will seldom offend and is always a safer choice if you are in doubt about when to use colloquial expressions.