Their as singular or plural pronoun

Ali1002

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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.
 
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Skrej

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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.
 
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GoesStation

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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.
:)
 

Tdol

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

Barb_D

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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.)
 

Rover_KE

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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)
 

Ali1002

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

Skrej

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Tdol

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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.
 

emsr2d2

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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"?

No, but then I would expect the speaker to use "your", not "their" there. Of course, I agree that "his" would be nonsensical.
 

Tdol

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I'd still use their if there were two men there.
 
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