By Nick Potter

In  this series we look at real-life examples of the most common mistakes in English by native Spanish lawyers.

These and lots more invaluable tips are compiled in two e-books/paperbacks, here: 50 English Tips for Spanish Professionals and More English Tips for Spanish Professionals.

the ones

I’m often asked about formality – are certain words too informal for business English? Which of two possible words is more formal? Strangely, the ones I’m asked about are rarely the ones that really can be too informal.

Question: Of A – J below, which is the one that is correct?

A Have you ever been the subject of any administrative sanction other than the ones mentioned in the previous question?
B Our scope of engagement is the one described in detail above
C For the purposes of this letter, all definitions refer to the ones utilized in the Offer
D The Escrow Agent will not be entitled to charge any expenses other than the ones agreed in the Account Contract
E The amount offered for each of the Properties is the one shown below
F However, in a share deal as the one we are proposing under the Offer …
G This would not trigger other change of control provisions such as the ones set out in (i)
H The Data Room does not contain any further information than the one contained in the VDDR
I “I’m delighted for the players, not just the ones that played today but everybody that’s played a part because they stick together, the lads”
J We advised in three out of the four IPOs of SOCIMIS (similar to REITS) occurred in Spain in 2014 (including the first one and the largest one)

■ Before you read the answer, remember:

You often hear people refer to “the one” in conversations about TV shows. Indeed, every episode of the comedy Friends was called “The One Where…” or “The One With…”.

It is often said that writing in plain English means writing as you speak.

It’s true that a great deal of writing would benefit from being more conversational, using more personal pronouns and active verbs; we’ll get to that in chapter 21.

However, it also depends on how you speak. Most of us don’t speak particularly well, especially after a long day. So good, clear writing also needs to be refined a little depending who you are talking to.

An example of where we should refine our writing is this:

In formal written English, instead of identifying things (el, la, los, las) as “the one” we use that and instead of “the ones”  we use those.

Exchanging two words for one also helps keep your sentences short.

The one/the ones are perfectly fine to use in email discussions, say. Because we use those words in everyday speech.

  • Es una agencia distina a la que solemos contratar / It’s a different agency to the one we usually hire
  • Prefiero los de vidrio, no me gustan los de plástico / I prefer the glass ones, I don’t like the plastic ones

But they can be too conversational for reports, contracts and many other documents that you may be asked to draft in English. They also sound vague (like “some”, compared to “certain”).

  • Esto aplica incluso en situaciones excepcionales como las mencionadas en el artículo 4 / This applies even in exceptional situations such as those mentioned in Article 4
  • El mejor procedimiento a seguir es el que describimos a continuación / The best procedure to follow is that described below

■ So:

Of the bumper crop of examples above only J is correct, a quote from the manager of an English football club (not Nottingham Forest obviously, as this team won).

The others are from formal business documents.

In A – I, the authors should have translated el/la/las/los as that/those instead of the one/the ones.

A Have you ever been the subject of any administrative sanction other than the ones those mentioned in the previous question?
B Our scope of engagement is the one that described in detail above
C For the purposes of this letter, all definitions refer to the ones those utilized in the Offer
D The Escrow Agent will not be entitled to charge any expenses other than the ones those agreed in the Account Contract
E The amount offered for each of the Properties is the one that shown below
F However, in a share deal as the one like that we are proposing under the Offer …
G This would not trigger other change of control provisions such as the ones those set out in (i)
H The Data Room does not contain any further information than the one that contained in the VDDR
I “I’m delighted for the players, not just the ones that played today but everybody that’s played a part because they stick together, the lads” [CORRECT]

Note a slightly different mistake in J. La primera / la más grande would simply translate as the first / the largest.

J We advised in three out of the four IPOs of SOCIMIs (similar to REITS) occurred in Spain in 2014 (including the first one and the largest one)