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    #1

    Question Concord

    A rule of concord states that indefinite and distributive pronouns (eg. "someone", "no one", "anyone", "everyone", "any one", "each one" etc.) take the singular form of the verb and agree in number (i.e singular) and person (i.e third person) with their corresponding pronouns/noun equivalents: For example: "Anyone may choose his own brand of clothing", "No one has the right to indulge himself at the expense of another person", "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion", etc.

    I have come across sentences like "An expert is someone who is very skilled in what they do", "Can anyone tell me what they dreamt about last night?", "Every one here today has a right to speak their minds". For the last sentence, the 'correction' - in terms of the rule - would be: "... has the right to speak his own mind".

    Are we to sacrifice sense and force in the name of liguistic purism?

    Please note that in my examples, "his" does the work for "his/her". I have two problems with this: firstly, breaking the rule, especially in the penult and last example, seems more sensible and 'right' given the sense of plurality; secondly, the use of "his/her", especially in complex constructions, will lead to bad style/clumsiness.

    Does anyone have any suggestions or comments regarding this?

    Jethro

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    #2

    Re: Concord

    Usage is evolving. The use of "he," "him," and "his" in the singular when the sex of the person being talked about is unknown or irrelevant is, rightly or wrongly, considered by many to be "sexist" or "exclusionary." So people have taken to trying to avoid giving "offense" to those who find offense easily in pronoun selection.

    To avoid clunky constructions like "his or her," the use of "their" and other plural, yet unsexed words is becoming the norm.

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    #3

    Re: Concord

    Many languages use plural forms for politeness. I see the use of their as similar- it is polite not to assume gender and not to exclude, so sacrificing a little grammatical maths, which in many cases isn't even mathematically correct - everyone - seems a small price to pay. Grammar rules are not laws of physics- they can change and often do, so I see no reason why this shouldn't be accepted. I am also happy with his and his or her.

  1. BobK's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Concord

    People who don't feel comfortable with this use of 'their' have even proposed the coining of a new distributuve pronoun: xir. This strikes me as ridisible, pedantic, and - more importantly - bound to fail.

    b

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    #5

    Re: Concord

    Shim was doing the rounds a while ago, but that didn't take off either.

  2. Roman55's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Concord

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    Many languages use plural forms for politeness.
    I am not a teacher.

    Yes, but the ones that do that I am familiar with also put the verb in the plural. That's just additional information, I actually agree with what you wrote.

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    #7

    Re: Concord

    So do we when the plural pronoun governs the verb:

    Someone has left their bag in the classroom, and I think they have left their umbrella too.

  3. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Concord

    Just for the sake of mentioning it, "they" was used for the unsexed singular pronoun for centuries. Then, about the same time that "scholarly people" decided that English should act like Latin, bringing us those "rules" about not ending with a preposition or splitting infinitives, it was suggested that "he" "him" and "his" can simply stand in for both sexes.

    The same people who come near to swooning with indignation over the split infinitive are probably the ones who feel that "political correctness" has taken over the language recently. If you go back two centuries instead of one (and keep going back) you'll find pleny of uses of "they/them/their" for the singular.

    http://www.crossmyt.com/hc/linghebr/sgtheirl.html
    And because these threads always make my blood boil, I won't return. Feel free to fume and fret amongst yourselves.
    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.

  4. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: Concord

    But you will also find examples of thee, thou, and thouest.

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    #10

    Re: Concord

    You will, but that doesn't affect the point that Barb is making that the singular their is not PC gone mad, but something that goes back hundreds of years.

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