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    #1

    Cool their??

    Hi,

    I found a strange sentence in a grammar book:

    'Your friend is going to travel and asks you to look after their cat or dog.'

    Shouldn't it be his instead of their?

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    #2

    Re: their??

    Quote Originally Posted by bieasy View Post
    Hi,

    I found a strange sentence in a grammar book:

    'Your friend is going to travel and asks you to look after their cat or dog.'

    Shouldn't it be his instead of their?
    Yes, it sure sounds strange. Since it is in a grammar book it certainly provides some context and explanation/justification, would you feed us with it?

    I guess "their" should refer to one of the nouns, that is, either "Your friend" (more likely) or "you" (not so likely but possible). So instead of "their" it should read "his", "her" or "your".

    But what if "Your friend" is married, for example, and although he is going to travel alone, the "cat or dog" belongs to the couple? In this case "their" would refer to a previous information in the text (the couple's cat or dog).

    Not a native speaker

  1. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: their??

    Using "their" as a gender-neutral, third-person singular pronoun has been in use for a LONG time.

    It plays the same role as "his or her" would in the same sentence without the awkwardness.

    There are still some people who object to this use, but their numbers are decreasing. In all but the most formal contexts, using "their" in place of "his or her" is fine.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    #4

    Re: their??

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    Using "their" as a gender-neutral, third-person singular pronoun has been in use for a LONG time.

    It plays the same role as "his or her" would in the same sentence without the awkwardness.

    There are still some people who object to this use, but their numbers are decreasing. In all but the most formal contexts, using "their" in place of "his or her" is fine.
    Thanks again Barb_D !


    Now I understand why in the sentence it is written "cat or dog". It is a hypothetical situation, neither the gender of "Your friend" is known nor whether he or she owns a cat or a dog.

    My question now is whether such use extends itself for pronouns other than possessive ones. Is there any situation, for instance, where "he or she" could be changed to "they"?

  2. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: their??

    You bet.

    If someone is going to travel abroad, they should talk to their doctor to see if there are any inoculations they might need.

    Note you can avoid this sometimes by changing things to the plural. (Travelers going abroad should...)

    You are quite right that if you already knew WHICH friend then you would use either "he" or "she" because the gender is already known.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  3. Nightmare85's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: their??

    Everybody has their own opinion.
    Humans are not male only - that's why his would be wrong.
    Humans are not female only - that's why her would be wrong.
    Humans are not machines - that's why its would be wrong.

    In such a case you can use their, even if everybody is singular.

    I hope that helped a bit

    **Neither a teacher nor a native speaker.**

    Cheers!

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