What does it mean,"Each one"?
December 8, 2009 3:59 AM   Subscribe

I am learning English now. Well, please imagine.. I am with my American boyfriend,and there are two pieces of cake in front of us.He says,"Which one do you want?"And while I am hesitating ,he adds pointing at both of them,"You can have each one."Then I cut each pieces into two, for us to be able to taste both...,I think that he says that I can try both of them...do I misunderstand about what he says? And if it not correct,what would you say when you want to tell me that I can try both taste?Just"You can try both of them."?
posted by mizukko to Writing & Language (38 answers total)
 
"You can have each one" isn't really English.

"You can have half of each" or "you can try both" would be English, as would "you can have both".
posted by creasy boy at 4:07 AM on December 8, 2009


I'm not a native English speaker, but if he had said "you can have either one" he would have told you to just pick one. "You can have each one" sounds, to me, correctly interpreted by you, but also a bit rigidly interpreted. No native speaker of any language speaks the language flawlessly, and saying "each one" instead of "either one" is a minor mistake.

I think the problem is more one of expectations. He expected you to pick just one, and you basically found a third solution. If he wanted you to try both, he'd probably would have suggested cutting them up himself.
posted by DreamerFi at 4:08 AM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ah. Okay. I think in your example we have two problems- One is cultural or personal, the other is linguistic:

First, the personal: Sometimes people don't like to share. So when he says "Pick one", he means "One" as in "Have one or the other". Your decision to split them into equal halves might annoy him.

If he says: "Which one do you want?" he means one OR the other. Not both.

If he wanted to share he would have suggested the idea of cutting them in half. I just sat here and tried to imagine a linguistically probably dialogue, but I think the heart of it is that his intention might be implied: "Or we could cut them in half" (so that we could each try both).

Agreeing that, "We can each have half" is probably what he would have said, or "You can have half of each". It is less direct, but I think we just assume that you will know what to do.

Alternately, I could say to you: "Hey, mizukko, let's cut the cake in half so we can try both kinds", but I'd be more likely to say "Hey, mizukko, let's just cut the cake in half".

Phew. English is confusing.
posted by GilloD at 4:18 AM on December 8, 2009


Yes, he would probably say 'You can have either one' if he meant that you could have Cake 1 or Cake 2.

I have never heard someone say 'You can have each one'. However, they might say 'You can try each one' or 'You can have both'. I think this is because to 'have' a thing usually means to have all of it.

The rest of what you said is absolutely correct.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 4:24 AM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


If I wanted to suggest that we can share both pieces, I'd say, "You can have some of each."

If I wanted most of one or the other but was willing to let you sample both pieces before deciding, I'd say "You can try some of each."
posted by jon1270 at 4:26 AM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


when someone is unclear in what they say- you can either ask 'what do you mean' or you can take a guess- if it were me, I would think that someone cutting each slice of cake in half after I said something unclear like your boyfriend did would be really cute- and certainly not the end of the world if I had meant something different. Your interpretation made sense even if it's not what he meant
posted by saraindc at 4:47 AM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Did he say "halve" instead of "have"? Native English could easily mistake hearing each word, and you did exactly what he said!
posted by cestmoi15 at 4:56 AM on December 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


Response by poster: Then when my friend tells me, "I got both, and you can have each one."..is it possible to think that I can pick both of them, (including cutting each of them to share.)??....or should I pick only one of them for me?...I wonder what "each one" really means...
posted by mizukko at 5:17 AM on December 8, 2009


If my wife and I had pieces of two different cakes, I would probably say something like, "Pick one, or we could split them both."
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:19 AM on December 8, 2009


The best thing to ask your friend is 'What do you mean by that?'. Both parts of that sentence ('I got both' and 'you can have each one') would be confusing even for a native english speaker.

Your friend is more likely to say 'I bought both of these', and then say one of the following things:

1. "and you can have both of them" (you can have two whole cakes)
2. "and you can have either of them" (you can have cake 1 or cake 2)
3. "and you can have one of them" (same as 2)
4. "you can have some of each one" (you can share cake 1 and cake 2)
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 5:26 AM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


"You can have each one" sounds awkward and nonstandard.

If it were me, I'd probably say "you can have either one," meaning you could choose one or the other, or "you can have one of each," meaning you have choose one piece of both cakes. Or "you can have some of each," same as "one of each" but referring to a part of something instead of a countable object. (Some juice/one orange - some cake/one piece of cake.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:28 AM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Each one" is used when there is a quality or action that applies to individual objects.

"You can have both."
means just that with no further qualifications.

"You can have both, but before you try each one I want you to stop for a moment and..."
Now there is an action which occurs before each individual one and thus the appearance of "each one"

"I got both, and you can have each one."
Is confusing to a native English speaker because there is no reason for that additional clause. It implies there is some further qualification coming but there doesn't seem to be one in sight.
posted by vacapinta at 5:29 AM on December 8, 2009


"Halve" is what I was thinking, too, although using "halve" as a verb like that is kind of uncommon in my experience. Anyway, "You can halve each one." = "You can cut both of them in half."
posted by emelenjr at 5:31 AM on December 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


Then when my friend tells me, "I got both, and you can have each one."

Are you sure your friend didn't say, "I got both, and you can each have one" ? That would be a more common statement, meaning you can take a piece of cake and your boyfriend can take a piece of cake. Of course, at that point there is no rule stating you can't ahead and share the cake any way you like.
posted by mikepop at 5:31 AM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


can't *go* ahead
posted by mikepop at 5:32 AM on December 8, 2009


If it was me and my girlfriend I would say "Sharesies?"
posted by chrillsicka at 5:39 AM on December 8, 2009


He was saying that each piece is available for you take; the easier way to say it would have been "You can have either one".
posted by spaltavian at 6:09 AM on December 8, 2009


"I got both, and you can have each one." ...

Are you sure your friend didn't say, "I got both, and you can each have one" ?


Yes, I was just going to say the same thing.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:24 AM on December 8, 2009


From what is said here, I think you understood the situation correctly.

Did this situation happen? If so, what was the boyfriend's reaction after the cakes were cut in half?

I probably would have said something like, "I bought these two cakes today. Let's share them," meaning me and my husband would have a piece of both.
posted by zizzle at 6:57 AM on December 8, 2009


I am a native speaker of English.

If someone presented me with several items and said "you can have each one", I would parse that to mean that I could have all of them; that is, that I could have the entirety of each individual item. Granted, this is unusual both socially and linguistically and I would probably ask for clarification (as others have suggested, "you can have either one" seems more probable).

For what it's worth, your response -- cutting each piece in half to share -- is both within the normal bounds of dating behaviour (if not necessarily what the cake-giver had in mind) and also within the bounds of a strict interpretation of "you can have each one" since you would have been free to keep the whole of both slices of cake without offering half of each back to your boyfriend.
posted by onshi at 7:10 AM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


D'oh -- then there's the issue of hearing "you can have each one" versus "you can halve each one"!
posted by onshi at 7:11 AM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


If there are only 2 people, you and your boyfriend, he wouldn't say "I got both, and you can each have one", he would say "I got both, and we can each have one."

Unless the person who got the cake and offered it didn't want to eat any cake.
posted by mikepop at 7:11 AM on December 8, 2009


Oops, retract that last comment as I somehow imagined an additional friend into the scenario.
posted by mikepop at 7:13 AM on December 8, 2009


In that situation, I can imagine a native speaker of English saying the following things:

"I got two cakes, and we can each have one" -- meaning that each person would have one whole cake;

"I got two cakes. Let's have half of each one" -- meaning that both cakes would be cut into two, and each person would have one half of each cake;

"I got two cakes, and you can have either" -- meaning that each person would have one whole cake, and you can pick which one you want.

I don't know if you misheard "either" as "each", or if you misheard the word order, or if you misheard "have half" as the word "have" repeated.

Or if your friend isn't a native speaker of English, in which case I suppose he might have said "You can have each" or "You can halve each." But a native speaker of English wouldn't have said either of those things--they're not idiomatic English sentences.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:32 AM on December 8, 2009


"You can have either one" means you get to choose one piece only.
"You can try them both" means you get a piece of both cakes.

"You can have each one" is incorrect English- a native speaker probably wouldn't say this.

But- "You can halve each one" - sounds exactly the same and is proper English. It is somewhat old-fashioned and British to use the word "halve"- an American probably wouldn't say this, they would more likely say "cut in half" than "halve". But "You can halve each one" would be a correct way to say "you can cut both pieces in half."
posted by twistofrhyme at 7:38 AM on December 8, 2009


I'm pretty sure he said, "You can have either one." And you misunderstood it as "You can have each one." "Each one" and "either one" sound very similar, but only "either one" makes sense here.

"You can have each one" is not normal English, and I don't think a native speaker would that in this situation. If he did say that, I wouldn't know what he meant either. I'd have to ask, do you mean I can have either of them, or I can have both of them, or I can some of both of them?

Saying "Can I try both of them?" or "Can I have some of both of them?" or "Can we split them?" is a perfectly acceptable answer to the offer "You can have either one."

So I think you misunderstood him, but he didn't mind.
posted by nangar at 7:48 AM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


nthing: I have never heard "each one" in this context.
posted by beerbajay at 7:54 AM on December 8, 2009


Why not have a piece of each? (he might ask or suggest), and this would be an instance where you can have your cake and eat it twice.
posted by Postroad at 8:01 AM on December 8, 2009


I agree with the other comments saying that what your boyfriend said does not sound like English as it is spoken by native American English speakers. I'm curious what your boyfriend's take is on what he said and what he meant - could you ask him and post his response?
posted by fermezporte at 8:18 AM on December 8, 2009


"You can have each one" is incorrect English- a native speaker probably wouldn't say this.

A native speaker of English did say this. Native speakers of any lanugage use "non-standard" grammer, unusal constructions and personal language "ticks" all the time. Perfect usuage should not be an underlying assumption.

Or if your friend isn't a native speaker of English

Her "American boyfriend" probably is.
posted by spaltavian at 8:42 AM on December 8, 2009


Ask the rest of the question in your native tongue.
posted by thejoshu at 8:50 AM on December 8, 2009


Another point to throw in --

If you learned British English (or variants-of-New York English), you learned to pronounce the "ei" in "either" to rhyme with "eye." But most Americans pronounce it to rhyme with "each."

So if he did say "You can have either one," you may not have realized.

I agree that if someone said "you can have each one," I'd have to ask what they meant because that's a bizarre way to say whatever it is they meant. Although I'd lean toward it meaning "you can have both."

I feel like "each" is close in meaning to "both,” but implies a division. For example, let’s say there are three people. One person buys two slices of cake and doesn’t want to eat them, so offers the slices to two other people. If they said to the two other people “You can both have one,” this would be confusing, because it might mean that the two people would have to share one piece of cake. But if they said “You can each have one,” it would mean that one person could have one piece of cake and the other person could have the other piece – division. In this case, “both” means the two people are acting together, as one unit, and “each” means that the two people are acting separately, but doing the same thing.
posted by thebazilist at 8:51 AM on December 8, 2009


A native speaker of English did say this.

Not necessarily. mizukko may have misheard/misremembered or this may be a hypothetical situation. Both of those seem more likely than a native English speaker saying "You can have each one."

I suppose, another explanation is that the boyfriend is poorly educated/lacks confidence in his education and is trying extra hard to speak correctly for the benefit of mizukko and is coming out with gibberish.
posted by missmagenta at 8:54 AM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


If your boyfriend was British or an Australian, then "you can halve each one" seems like it would be perfectly natural. Cutting the cakes in half would be the perfect response.

Since you say he is American, I have no idea why he would use that sentence, or get upset either way. You both got to eat cake. If he wanted to eat one cake more than the other, for example if he got chocolate and vanilla, but only wanted chocolate...then he should have said, "I bought a vanilla cake for you, Mizuko."
posted by squasha at 9:02 AM on December 8, 2009


Best answer: "You can have each one" isn't really English. Yes it is. It means "You can have each one of these pieces of cake." That would make sense if a person showed up with two pieces of cake and gave them to another person. It might seem awkward to say "you can have each one" instead of "You can have both" or "You can have all the cake" but it is English.

Furthermore, it a sentence which has a logical meaning in American English. In fact the phrase "each one" is in fairly common use, as far as I can tell, although it is normally followed by an "of" phrase. "Each one of you is responsible for your own transportation." "Each one of the children has his own unique gift."

It's not necessarily clear. For instance "Here are six boxes of auto parts. Each one has an individual inventory control number." is grammatically correct, but logically unclear. Each one of what? Each one of the boxes? Each one of the auto parts?

But most native speakers of [American] English that I know, with two pieces of cake to share between two people, would say "You can have each one" if they meant that the other person could have both pieces without sharing, but they would likely have to clarify "No, really, have both pieces." If they meant the pieces to be shared, they could say "You can halve each one" or they could say "We can share each one" to avoid misunderstanding. Or they could say "We can each have one." if they meant that the individual pieces would not be shared, but only that the body of available cake would be shared.

Conversational American English is terribly imprecise.

posted by crush-onastick at 9:49 AM on December 8, 2009


Or if your friend isn't a native speaker of English

Her "American boyfriend" probably is.


There are a lot of Americans (30+ million, in fact) who are not native speakers of English.

It's much more likely that her American boyfriend is not a native speaker of English than that any native speaker of English said "You can have each one." (More likely still is that she misheard something.)

As a former teacher of English as both a first and a second language, I have never heard anyone say "You can have each one" in this context. Not once.

Occam's Razor suggests to me that something else happened, probably that she misheard.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:11 AM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I suspect your boyfriend said "You can have either one," not "You can have each one."

Maybe you misheard him.

"either one" means you pick one, and I'll take the other one.

"each one" would imply that YOU should eat TWO pieces of cake. I don't think he meant that.

-
posted by General Tonic at 12:01 PM on December 8, 2009


I agree with crush-onastick that "you can have each one" is correct, though I also agree with the many others who posted here saying that it feels a bit awkward. You can see that "each one" is correct if you consider an example of a larger set of items:

Person A: There are at least 5 places I'd like to go for our vacation. Which place do you want to visit?
Person B: We can visit each one!

That sounds natural, doesn't it? The fact that in the cake example there are only 2 choices doesn't invalidate the use of "each one", although I do think that "both" would be a more typical way of saying this.

In my mind, saying "each one" in my vacation example instead of "all of them" more strongly implies visiting "in turn" (as opposed to simultaneously, as if that were possible...), but that could be just me.
posted by Vorteks at 1:41 PM on December 16, 2009


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