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  1. #1
    chameleon82 is offline Newbie
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    Can I use "him" in place of "them"?

    " The right person will come along and you won't need to do anything to keep them interested for the simple fact that you will be enough"

    I read this sentence on the internet. Can I use "him" in place of "them"?

  2. #2
    Rover_KE is offline Moderator
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    Re: Can I use "him" in place of "them"?

    Only if you are absolutely certain that the 'right person' is going to be male.

    They/them/their are used as third person singular pronouns when their gender is unknown or indeterminate—and in many cases, not even then.

  3. #3
    emsr2d2's Avatar
    emsr2d2 is offline Moderator
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    Re: Can I use "him" in place of "them"?

    Quote Originally Posted by chameleon82 View Post
    "The right person will come along and you won't need to do anything to keep them interested for the simple fact that you will be enough."

    I read this sentence on the internet. Can I use "him" in place of "them"?
    Note my corrections above. Don't put a space after opening quotation marks. Remember to use a full stop at the end of a full sentence. Someone else wrote it so I can't change what they wrote, but it would be far more natural to use "because" instead of the long-winded "for the simple fact that".
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  4. #4
    Tdol is online now Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: Can I use "him" in place of "them"?

    You can, but some find this usage dodgy today. You could use him or her to be numerically accurate if you like.

  5. #5
    Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
    Charlie Bernstein is offline VIP Member
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    Re: Can I use "him" in place of "them"?

    In American English, it's only okay if you're certain you're talking about a male. If your quote is from a conversation between two people, the speaker will probably know whether the other person is looking for a man or a woman. So "him would be fine.

    But if it's from an advice column or a self-help book, the speaker won't. In that case, I'd use "him or her" or rephrase the sentence.

    "Them" is acceptable to many English speakers. But a lot of us like to be what Tdol calls "numerically accurate," especially when writing. This is sometimes seen as old-fashioned, but in fact, it's an age-old debate - so both sides of it are old-fashioned!
    Last edited by Charlie Bernstein; 30-Oct-2017 at 13:01.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

  6. #6
    Rover_KE is offline Moderator
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    Re: Can I use "him" in place of "them"?

    It's fine to use 'he or she' or 'his/her' etc on a single occasion, but frequent repetitions within the same piece of text is poor style, which soon becomes very tedious.

  7. #7
    Tdol is online now Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: Can I use "him" in place of "them"?

    And very difficult to be consistent with. It's like people who start off using one and soon stray back to more familiar pronouns.

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