The generic person in English and Swedish: a contrastive study of 'one' and 'man'

Bengt Altenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To find out how the ‘generic person’ is expressed in English and Swedish, the use and correspondence of the generic pronouns one in English and man in Swedish are examined in a bidirectional English-Swedish translation corpus. The material demonstrates clearly the greater frequency and versatility of Swedish man and the restricted use of English one. The difference is partly register-related: while man is stylistically neutral one is relatively formal and often replaced by you or various other pronouns. However, the most striking difference is syntactic. The English correspondences of man cut across grammatical systems and can be seen to reflect two diverging tendencies: the English fiction texts often have a subject corresponding to Swedish man, but the non-fiction texts rely to a large extent on syntactic shifts and clause reductions without a corresponding subject. In other words, the difference between the languages is not just a matter of pronoun choice but of syntactic preferences and subject selection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-120
JournalLanguages in Contrast
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Languages and Literature


  • corpus linguistics
  • contrastive linguistics
  • Swedish
  • generic person
  • English


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