Page 1 of 2 1 2 Last
Results 1 to 10 of 12
  1. #1
    Ali1002 is offline Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Student or Learner
      • Native Language:
      • Persian
      • Home Country:
      • Iran
      • Current Location:
      • Iran
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Posts
    135

    Their as singular or plural pronoun

    Hi there! "Only one person has lost their job" In this sentence, Why has the writer used the plural pronoun (their) instead of (his)? Thanks for supporting! Sorry, I don't have PC to use this website and can't edit my writing correctly.
    Last edited by Ali1002; 12-Oct-2017 at 00:22.

  2. #2
    Skrej's Avatar
    Skrej is offline Key Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Posts
    3,701

    Re: Their as singular or plural pronoun

    There were traditionally two ways to handle unknown gender references. Once was just to assume it was a man, and the other was to use two pronouns, such as 'his or her'.

    However, it's becoming increasingly common to use 3rd person plural for cases of ambiguous gender pronoun references.
    It's less unwieldy than using multiple pronouns and less uncertain than always using the masculine pronoun.
    Last edited by Skrej; 12-Oct-2017 at 01:19.
    Wear short sleeves! Support your right to bare arms!

  3. #3
    GoesStation is offline Moderator
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Interested in Language
      • Native Language:
      • American English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Posts
    22,264

    Re: Their as singular or plural pronoun

    My grammatically punctilious mother's hackles would have shot up at the suggestion that using he, his and him as universal pronouns was in any way assuming the target was male. Having learned English as a second language and speaking a highly inflected language that rarely uses pronouns, she had no trouble accepting them as both masculine and neuter.

    I use they, their and them.
    I am not a teacher.

  4. #4
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Japan
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Posts
    74,147

    Re: Their as singular or plural pronoun

    It's become a standard usage nowadays. I would use it in all contexts.

  5. #5
    GoesStation is offline Moderator
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Interested in Language
      • Native Language:
      • American English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Posts
    22,264

    Re: Their as singular or plural pronoun

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    I use they, their and them.
    I should have added that my mother would not have approved.
    I am not a teacher.

  6. #6
    Barb_D's Avatar
    Barb_D is offline Moderator
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Other
      • Native Language:
      • American English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Posts
    19,049

    Re: Their as singular or plural pronoun

    Quote Originally Posted by Skrej View Post
    There were traditionally two ways to handle unknown gender references. Once was just to assume it was a man, and the other was to use two pronouns, such as 'his or her'.
    No. The traditional way, going back to Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde and even Shakespeare, was to use "their."
    In the 1800s, it became "he."
    By the end of the 1900s, we were back to "their" in many cases, and now almost universally again.

    I have done a lot of research on this. The people taught English in the 1950s-1970s think the change to "their" is some feminist initiative. It's really our language going to back to what it was before the absurd "he" for "anyone."

    Can you imagine addressing one man and one woman and saying "I can't say who yet, but one of you is going to lose his job as a result of the merger"? Suddenly "his" for either sex makes less sense, doesn't it?

    HOWEVER - in this case, it was one person, and presumably that person is KNOWN, so there is no reason to not use either "his" or "her" depending on the actual gender of the person whose job was lost. (Unless you wanted to protect that person's identity and thus minimize the amount of personal information about the now-jobless person so people didn't start guessing who it was.)
    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.

  7. #7
    Rover_KE is offline Moderator
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Retired English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Posts
    31,887

    Re: Their as singular or plural pronoun

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    I use they, their and them.
    So do I—and I also use themself, though I face fierce opposition from its haters.

    The standard reflexive form corresponding to they and them is themselves, as in they can do it themselves. The singular form themself, first recorded in the 14th century, has re-emerged in recent years corresponding to the singular gender-neutral use of they, as in this is the first step in helping someone to help themself. The form is not widely accepted in standard English, however.
    (Oxford)

  8. #8
    Ali1002 is offline Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Student or Learner
      • Native Language:
      • Persian
      • Home Country:
      • Iran
      • Current Location:
      • Iran
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Posts
    135

    Question Re: Their as singular or plural pronoun

    So, the writer is using the pronoun "they" as a gender-neutral third person singular pronoun, Right?

  9. #9
    Skrej's Avatar
    Skrej is offline Key Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Posts
    3,701

    Re: Their as singular or plural pronoun

    Yes.
    Wear short sleeves! Support your right to bare arms!

  10. #10
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Japan
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Posts
    74,147

    Re: Their as singular or plural pronoun

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    I have done a lot of research on this. The people taught English in the 1950s-1970s think the change to "their" is some feminist initiative. It's really our language going to back to what it was before the absurd "he" for "anyone."
    That's fair, but I remember complaints about the sexist use of he at university, and Richard Dawkins has written a number of times about the changes in academic language, so there was an element of feminism or equality in the drive to reclaim the old forms.

Page 1 of 2 1 2 Last

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •