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  1. #1
    cymay is offline Newbie
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    Default something about "everyone"

    Dear all:

    Here's a question of multiple choice.

    "We are in the classroom. Everyone is cleaning _____ desk and chair."

    (A)his or her (B)our (C)his (D)her

    The answer is (A).

    Yet my student asked me a question, which seemed reasonable enough to me. "Don't we often take "masculine" words to stand for all?

    I posed the question to my colleagues. The one who was responsible for this exam said that it was because the word "everyone" can't take masculine words to represent for all.

    Sorry for the long story. I just want to make sure can we really not make a sentence like "Everyone is cleaning his desk and chair." ? Thanks!

    Mary

  2. #2
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    SirGod is offline Member
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    Default Re: something about "everyone"

    * Not a teacher

    I have been taught to use their. Or, in this case, variant A.

  3. #3
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: something about "everyone"

    Traditionally the answer would have been his. In recent times, people have started using his or her or their. I would disagree with your colleague because some speakers do use masculine words for that purpose. It is becoming less common, but I see no language rule that says it is now an error to do so. Gender issues are changing the way people use pronouns, but things are in the process of changing and it is too early to say that c) is wrong IMO.

    However, I would suggest to your student to try not to use his alone in this way. It sounds rather dated to me.

    Like SirGod, I use their in such sentences.
    Last edited by Tdol; 13-Jan-2012 at 10:25.

  4. #4
    TheParser is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: something about "everyone"

    NOT A TEACHER


    (1) Here in the United States, if you use "his," you will be in big trouble with many people who think that

    it is disrespectful of women.

    (2) "His or her" is really ugly looking, in my opinion, and takes up so much space. I am not in

    the business world, but I am guessing that formal business documents avoid such an expression.

    (3) For older people such as I, "their" is absolutely absurd and horrible-sounding. But as SirGod and

    Tdol said, it is gaining in popularity. There has even been talk about inventing a new word to please

    both men and women, but nothing has come of it yet.

    (4) I try to do what many others try to do: reword the sentence. For example:

    All the students are cleaning their own desks.

  5. #5
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: something about "everyone"

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post
    There has even been talk about inventing a new word to please

    both men and women, but nothing has come of it yet.
    Shim & Shis were proposed but there was less agreement about the subject form- some suggested she as a combination of he and she, and I think shay was another suggestion, though I thought she was funnier. I have never heard anyone use them.

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