1. Anonymous Guest

## still confusing...

Dear Expert MikeNewYork,

A How many people can say that their letter was quoted on air.
B How many people can say that their letters were quoted on air.

You wrote:
I agree with TDOL. Because the subject is plural, we use the pronoun "their". That leads to a tendency to pluralize letters. If one wanted to emphasize a single letter, one could use the singular. I would then change "their" to his/her, but many would not.
Shouldn't I change these sentences??

1[A] How many people can say that their own mother
told them they had a shiny oven?

2[A] How many people can say that their last
car
cost more than their first house?

------&gt;

1[B] How many people can say that their own mothers
told them they have shiny ovens?

2[B] How many people can say that their last
cars
cost more than their first houses?

but I found that most people use style[A] more than style [B], why???

2. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
Join Date
Nov 2002
Posts
74,147
In the first case, it is generally one person, one mother. In British English, we tend to be very relaxed about singular and plural in such cases. I wouldn't mind the singualr or the plural.

3. ## Re: still confusing...

Originally Posted by Jeab
Dear Expert MikeNewYork,

A How many people can say that their letter was quoted on air.
B How many people can say that their letters were quoted on air.

You wrote:
I agree with TDOL. Because the subject is plural, we use the pronoun "their". That leads to a tendency to pluralize letters. If one wanted to emphasize a single letter, one could use the singular. I would then change "their" to his/her, but many would not.
Shouldn't I change these sentences??

1[A] How many people can say that their own mother
told them they had a shiny oven?

2[A] How many people can say that their last
car
cost more than their first house?

------&gt;

1[B] How many people can say that their own mothers
told them they have shiny ovens?

2[B] How many people can say that their last
cars
cost more than their first houses?

but I found that most people use style[A] more than style [B], why???
In the first, I would use the plural "mothers". We are in the plural. People have mothers and ovens. A person has a mother and an oven.

The second is trickier, because people often do have more than one car or even more than one house. I would change this one to singular.

How many people can say that his last car cost more than his first house. I would use the male singular unless I knew that I was talking about a woman.

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