I have come across もう一つ multiple times now, and I know it means "another one", but I'm struggling to understand it's grammatical function in a sentence.

It looks like the combination of the adverb もう and the counter 一つ, so is it a compound phrase or an independent word?

I've seen it modify nouns (e.g. もう一つリンゴ, "another apple"), kind of like an adjective.

I've also seen it in other positions in a sentence (e.g. リンゴをもう一ついかがですか。, "Would you like another apple?"). In this case, it seems to modify the sentence predicate.

I guess my question is, grammatically speaking, what is もう一つ? I haven't been able to find enough information/clarification in my studies.

Thank you very much for your help!

  • 2
    I don't see もう一つ as an independent word, since you can form similar constructions with other counters as well. もう一人、もう一回、もう一度、もう一個… 一つ just happens to be the counter for things in general, but the usage does not change. I'm not an advanced learner, but in your first example, are you sure it isn't もう一つリンゴ? In my experience, when a counter preceeds a noun, it is linked with の, whereas when it's after a particle like が or を, it comes directly without a particle. This is independent of もう. – jarmanso7 May 13 '20 at 17:41

もう is an adverb as you suspected, and it is modifying ひとつ. ひとつ works either as a no-adjective, as a pronoun, or as an adverb. (Adverbs can modify another adverb/adjective, right? For example, "very well" as in "He plays tennis very well" is a combination of two adverbs, and "very good" is an adverb-adjective pair.)

もうひとつ as a whole works as a no-adjective:

This apple is yellow and the other apple is red.

...or as an adverb:

I ate another apple.

...or as a pronoun meaning "another (one)" or "the other (one)":

One is blue and the other is red.

(An adverb normally doesn't modify a (pro)noun, but I think this use is an exception...I think you can say "Yet another is ..." in English, too.)

Note that もうひとつリンゴ is ungrammatical if presented in isolation like this. If you want to say "another apple" as a noun phrase, you have to say もうひとつリンゴ, in which case ひとつ is a no-adjective. もうひとつリンゴを食べる is grammatical, but in this case もうひとつ is modifying 食べる, not リンゴ.

In general, counters (as well as similar words related to quantity) in Japanese work both as adverbs and no-adjectives. This has been asked many times, so please read the following questions.

  • 1
    Thank you so much for breaking it down like this. The source of my confusion was that I've seen もうひとつ function as more than one part of speech, which as you have explained, is exactly the case - it can function as a no-adjective, a pronoun, or an adverb. Thank you for the reference questions, as well. I have much more studying to do :) – MisterPuddin May 14 '20 at 13:35

At my first glance of this question, I thought you are tired. But it turns me out a good question indeed, what is もう in this case?

Adverb もう:

③ すでにある基準や状態に達しているのに、さらに加える意を表す。さらに。 「 -一杯飲もう」 「 -少し右へ寄って」 「 -一度やってみよう」 三省堂 大辞林

The dictionary tells us three more meanings of もう. And in your case the apple was given to the one already and もう is equivalent of additional, frankly say 追加の/追加で

ひとつ can be replaced 一個 in this case, Japanese ひとつ would be many ways to translate into English, e.g. ひと玉のリンゴ、一艘の船、一匹の犬

  • 「もう」がadverbだというのは質問文に既にハッキリ書かれていることではないですかね。私には、むしろ質問者は「一つ」が名詞なのか形容詞なのか副詞なのかで悩んでいるように思えます。「一つ」が名詞なのだとしたら副詞が名詞を修飾するのはおかしいですし。 – naruto May 14 '20 at 0:00
  • @naruto, そっちはさらに簡単ですが・・・確かにそうですね – user34216 May 14 '20 at 0:02
  • 1
    "At my first glance of this question, I thought you are tired." Why is that so? – jarmanso7 May 14 '20 at 5:37
  • @jarmanso7 I know questions like this have been asked more than 10 times on this site, but native speakers can easily fail to recognize why words like 一つ are difficult to learners... – naruto May 14 '20 at 6:10
  • 1
    @jarmanso7, yes, my English sucks. – user34216 May 14 '20 at 6:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.