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The "It" problem!
Thread poster: Tatiana Neamţu

Tatiana Neamţu
Romania
Local time: 12:25
English to Romanian
+ ...
Jul 13, 2005

My great problem these days is the personal pronoun 'It'. In Romanian we only have 'he' (masculine) and 'she' (feminine); this way the noun "cat" is feminine (she) and "tree" is masculine, whereas in English they are both neuter and 'It' will be employed. Following this path, in a contract the 'Client' would be.... what? The client being a multinational comapany and not John Smith. If you replace "Client", what will you replace it with?

Thank you!


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Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 03:25
French to Spanish
+ ...
See KudoZ Jul 13, 2005

Tatiana: ProZ has several items. One of them is sending questions. Go there, and we'll be glad to help you.
Luck.


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:25
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
The correct form is "it" Jul 13, 2005

Hello Tatiana,

If the client is a person, then you of course use "he" or "she", but, in the case of a multinational company, it is correct to use "it". Maybe it sounds a little stiff, if you are not used to translating contracts, but it is definitely correct.


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mónica alfonso  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:25
English to Spanish
+ ...
Same happens in Spanish Jul 13, 2005

Spanish has the same 2 pronouns as Romanian, masc and fem.
In this particular case that the client is a company, I would alternate expressions equivalent to 'the client', 'XXX' (name of company), 'the above/already mentioned company', and the like, in order to solve this matter. Using a pronoun, either masculine or feminine (at least in Spanish) would sound rather awkward.




[Edited at 2005-07-13 19:48]


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Can Altinbay  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:25
Japanese to English
+ ...
If you are doing a contract... Jul 13, 2005

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:

Hello Tatiana,

If the client is a person, then you of course use "he" or "she", but, in the case of a multinational company, it is correct to use "it". Maybe it sounds a little stiff, if you are not used to translating contracts, but it is definitely correct.


...you should not be using it. Contracts use "party of the first part" or "contractor" or some other term specified at the top.

(I also use he and she for cats, but that's another story.)


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Barbara Micheletto
Italy
Local time: 11:25
Russian to Italian
+ ...
Strange as it may seem... Jul 13, 2005

in such cases I have many times encountered the use of "they". Sometimes I also found the use of "they" for a single person, e.g. a Chairman, a Director etc., when speaking in general (E.g.: If the Director wishes to appoint a deputy, they should...). Sounds rather weird to me, anyway.
V.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:25
French to English
Repeat ad nauseum :-) Jul 13, 2005

In traditional English legalese, pronouns are quite rare. Contracts are full of phrases along the lines of "The Client agrees that the Client shall make available to the Provider..." and suchlike.

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KLS
Local time: 10:25
Spanish to English
+ ...
Bite the bullet... Jul 13, 2005

Hi Tatiana,

I agree entirely with Charlie's comment (see above) that the use of pronouns in English legal texts is quite rare and that lawyers will go to great lengths to avoid them.

As a translator (particularly if you are working out of your mother tongue!) it is probably best that you don't emulate this style. There will come a time when you simply have to use a pronoun. When that time comes, just bite the bullet and use "it", which is the correct pronoun for impersonal organisations.

HTH


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Can Altinbay  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:25
Japanese to English
+ ...
The singular person they Jul 14, 2005

Viktorija Grozio wrote:

in such cases I have many times encountered the use of "they". Sometimes I also found the use of "they" for a single person, e.g. a Chairman, a Director etc., when speaking in general (E.g.: If the Director wishes to appoint a deputy, they should...). Sounds rather weird to me, anyway.
V.


"They" in conjunction with people who are specified by title, especially in cases when referring to a role that will be filled by different people at different times, such as ChairPERSON, began to be used because "he" was deemed limiting when the person filling the role may be a woman as well as a man. While I agree that suitable language needs to be found for these situations, I find the existing solutions mostly clunky if not outright appalling. "They" is one "solution" I could do without. I will go through some interesting mind games to avoid using such structures.


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John Bowden  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:25
German to English
Relax! Jul 14, 2005

Can Altinbay wrote:


"They" in conjunction with people who are specified by title, especially in cases when referring to a role that will be filled by different people at different times, such as ChairPERSON, began to be used because "he" was deemed limiting when the person filling the role may be a woman as well as a man. While I agree that suitable language needs to be found for these situations, I find the existing solutions mostly clunky if not outright appalling. "They" is one "solution" I could do without. I will go through some interesting mind games to avoid using such structures.


No need for "mind games", Can, interesting or otherwise - the "singular they" has been around for several hundred years!

"They: Singular or Plural?
Writers are faced with a touchy dilemma: what singular pronoun do we use when referring to someone of an unknown gender? Traditionally people have used "he," but that is being abandoned in common speech because of the sexist overtones. Some use "he or she," but many other use "they" - at least when speaking. In writing it is assumed that this is incorrect - but maybe it isn't?

A recent article in The Vocabula Review explains that since at least Middle English, "they" has been used in the singular and plural just as "you" has:

Beyond the world of linguistics, it isn't generally known that singular they was once accepted usage in English writing and speech. There is no evidence that speakers of Middle English and early Modern English used gender-inclusive he as we know it today (Hook 333). In fact, Bodine claims, "English has always had ... linguistic devices for referring to sex-indefinite referents, notably the use of singular 'they' (their, them)" (168). Examples of such usage can be found on Henry Churchyard's Linguist Page, a website that applauds singular they 's long tradition in English literature."

http://atheism.about.com/b/a/029256.htm

And see also:

"Oxford English Dictionary: excerpt of the entry for they

Often used in reference to a singular noun made universal by every, any, no, etc., or applicable to one of either sex (= ‘he or she’)

1526 Pilgr. Perf. (W. de W. 1531) 163 b, Yf..a psalme scape ony persone, or a lesson, or else yt they omyt one verse or twayne.

1535 Fisher Ways perf. Relig. ix. Wks. (1876) 383 He neuer forsaketh any creature vnlesse they before haue forsaken them selues.

1749 Fielding Tom Jones viii. xi, Every Body fell a laughing, as how could they help it.

1759 Chesterf. Lett. IV. ccclv. 170 If a person is born of a.. gloomy temper..they cannot help it.

1835 Whewell in Life (1881) 173 Nobody can deprive us of the Church, if they would.

1858 Bagehot Lit. Stud. (1879) II. 206 Nobody fancies for a moment that they are reading about anything beyond the pale of ordinary propriety.

1866 Ruskin Crown Wild Olives Sect.38 (1873) 44 Now, nobody does anything well that they cannot help doing.

Interesting site on singular they: Singular their in Jane Austen and elsewhere: Anti-pedantry page. A few examples from that page:


Emma Woodhouse in Emma:
"Every body was punctual, every body in their best looks: not a tear, and hardly a long face to be seen."
Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park:
"I would have every body marry if they can do it properly: I do not like to have people throw themselves away; but every body should marry as soon as they can do it to advantage."
Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility:
"Whoever may have been so detestably your enemy, let them be cheated of their malignant triumph, my dear sister, by seeing how nobly the consciousness of your own innocence and good intentions supports your spirits."

http://www.indiana.edu/~lggender/grammar.html


[Edited at 2005-07-14 10:13]


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John Bowden  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:25
German to English
good point Jul 14, 2005

Charlie Bavington wrote:

In traditional English legalese, pronouns are quite rare. Contracts are full of phrases along the lines of "The Client agrees that the Client shall make available to the Provider..." and suchlike.


You're absolutely right!


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Timothy Barton
Local time: 11:25
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
I think we're missing the point Jul 14, 2005

Her question is for translation into Romanian, if I've understood correctly.

I suggest you post it on the Romanian forum, where you'll be advised by people who know how to write in your target language.


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John Bowden  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:25
German to English
I didn't understand it like that... Jul 14, 2005

Timothy Barton wrote:

Her question is for translation into Romanian, if I've understood correctly.

I suggest you post it on the Romanian forum, where you'll be advised by people who know how to write in your target language.


If Romanian has only 2 genders, it would seem logical that the pronoun for the Romanian word for "client" would correspond to the gender of the noun - I thought the problem being addresed was when English uses "it" instead of "he" - if there is no word for "it" in Romanian, the question would be meaningless!

[Edited at 2005-07-14 15:25]

[Edited at 2005-07-14 15:26]


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Tatiana Neamţu
Romania
Local time: 12:25
English to Romanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you very much! Jul 14, 2005

No, my questionn was referring to the English version. Actually, I am not translating a contract right now, it's just that this problem is the most bothering for me, since I sometimes translate into English as well. The fact is that I didn't use the most fortunate appropach, because I did nor refer only to contracts, but to all situations of the kind. It seems particularly funny to use 'it' where I would normally use 'he' or 'she'. But I guess that comes with not being a native speaker
As far as contract are concerned, I try to avoid the pronouns as much as possible, still....
Thank you all for your answers.


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Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:25
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Article Jul 14, 2005

There was an interesting article in the ATA's Chronicle magazine about a year or so ago on this topic. The article explained different ways of avoiding referring to gender with pronouns in English.

Perhaps the English pronoun "thon" should come into wider usage. This is a neutral third person singular pronoun which has existed for quite a while. Should thon employ this pronoun more frequently then thon would avoid this problem.

[Edited at 2005-08-09 00:17]


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