his/her/its/their

English translation: singular "their"

GLOSSARY ENTRY (DERIVED FROM QUESTION BELOW)
English term or phrase:his/her/its/their
English translation:singular "their"
Entered by: Yvonne Gallagher

17:16 Oct 23, 2013
English to English translations [PRO]
General / Conversation / Greetings / Letters / basic grammar/pronouns
English term or phrase: his/her/its/their
This is a question for native spekers:
which personal pronoun and possessive adjective would you use when WRITING generally about any child, no matter if boy or girl?

Examples: "... to his parents"? its? their?
"I would tell him..." or "her"?

What about informal speech, every-day-language?

Thank you in advance for your help!
progress
Local time: 06:02
singular "their" and "him"
Explanation:
usually... unless I know the gender

I'll write to their parents

I'll tell him.

Not "it" anyway.

http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/generic-s...

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 13 mins (2013-10-23 17:30:42 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

You can also try to rewrite to avoid the problem as suggested in link or for formal writing keep to "he" and she"




--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 15 mins (2013-10-23 17:32:48 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

a summary of link's points

"So here's the bottom line: Rewrite your sentences to avoid the problem. If that's not possible, check to see if the people you are writing for have a style guide. If not, use "he or she" if you want to play it safe, or use "they" if you feel bold and are prepared to defend yourself." - See more at:
http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/generic-s...

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 15 hrs (2013-10-24 08:20:47 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

As Anna has discussed "him" is not considered to be PC in many circles today but is still widely used when gender is unknown but if rephrasing isn't possible the the singular "they" can also be used. The previous Proz answer by Charles on singular "they" should be read by all. so am repeating link below. I really do consider "he or she" or the abomination (s)he, which no one suggested as yet, "him or her" extremely awkward and rarely, if ever, use them.

http://www.proz.com/kudoz/English/linguistics/5349098-singul...

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 15 hrs (2013-10-24 08:21:36 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

2nd line above: theN the singular...

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 1 day16 hrs (2013-10-25 09:30:57 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

In reference to using the masculine "he" or "him" of course as AT points out in disc. it is used in legal drafts but is still used both informally and formally in other situations whatever about it being PC.
The other thing that has happened is that the PC aspect has swung the other way in that "she" and "her" is used. Here is an example where it swings from he or she to he/him and she/her:

http://extension.missouri.edu/extensioninfonet/article.asp?i...
When a child is feeling threatened or afraid, he or she can misbehave. Her misbehavior is a way of protecting herself. When you think this is happening, ask the child how she is feeling. Reassure her if she is feeling fearful or in danger. You can then help her deal with these emotions. Never minimize her feelings or tell her that her emotions don’t make sense.
When a child is feeling threatened or afraid, he or she can misbehave. Her misbehavior is a way of protecting herself. When you think this is happening, ask the child how she is feeling. Reassure her if she is feeling fearful or in danger. You can then help her deal with these emotions. Never minimize her feelings or tell her that her emotions don’t make sense.

here "their/they them" used frequently

http://voices.yahoo.com/what-if-child-misbehaving-school-404...

"...While many parents might be tempted to meet with the teacher in private, it is important to let your child know that they are responsible for their own actions. It is also a good way to ensure that there is no miscommunication. The teacher can tell their version of the story, your child can tell their version and future rules can be agreed upon by everyone.

It might also be a good idea to talk to your child before this meeting so they can prepare any questions or comments they might have for the teacher as well..."

here is an interesting Oxford blog on the issue that should be read in its entirety

http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2012/06/he-or-she-versus-...


"... I always aim to stay within the bounds of good English, but I inadvertently incurred the ire of some people with the following sentence, in a recent blog about forming plurals of loanwords:
Ironically, the person who wrote the question above is revealing their own ignorance.
My faux pas? I used a singular noun (person) followed by the plural possessive determiner their. It’s clearly a contentious issue: several commenters believed that this was beyond the pale, while others jumped in to back me up. Presumably the antis (if they live in Britain) are also irritated every time they hear the automated voice on the 1471 phone service (BT caller ID) informing them that ‘the caller [singular] has withheld their [plural] number’. This wording also appears on the BT website:
BT 1471 tells you the last number that called – unless the caller withheld their number by dialling 141 before dialling your number…
When I consulted the two-billion-word Oxford English Corpus (OEC), I found numerous examples of similar usage from around the world, in highly respectable sources such as The Telegraph and the New York Times, but two (or even many) wrongs don’t make a right…so who’s correct and who’s wrong? Is it even an open-and-shut grammatical case?
Mea culpa?
Normally, I’d agree with my critics and readily apologize for any blunder: correct agreement is one of my favourite issues and I’ve blogged about it in the past. However, I freely admit that when I wrote that sentence, it didn’t ring any particular grammatical alarm bells (I also have a safety net, my blog posts being checked by some very astute people at Oxford University Press). What can I offer in my defence? Firstly, I’m in good literary company: according to the historical Oxford English Dictionary (OED), writers such as Thackeray, Oliver Goldsmith, and George Bernard Shaw have all used this construction:
It’s enough to drive anyone out of their senses.
- GB Shaw, Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant (1898)
Secondly, I was an Oxford lexicographer in my previous existence, and it’s the policy of current English Oxford Dictionaries to use plural pronouns and determiners such as they and their in definitions in cases where, formerly, singular forms such as he and his would have been selected..."



--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 11 days (2013-11-03 19:00:00 GMT) Post-grading
--------------------------------------------------

Glad to have helped. An interesting discussion
Selected response from:

Yvonne Gallagher
Ireland
Local time: 05:02
Grading comment
Finally I chose "singular their", may be because I'm a bit conservative too. In any case, thank you to everybody for the very interesting dicussion and the useful suggestions.
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer



Summary of answers provided
5 +7the child's
Russell Jones
4 +4His or her
Jack Doughty
4 +1singular "their" and "him"
Yvonne Gallagher


Discussion entries: 13





  

Answers


10 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +4
His or her


Explanation:
If you know which. "Its" would be OK for a very young baby. It don't think "their" is possible unless you are referring to children in the plural.

Jack Doughty
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:02
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 366

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Daniel Weston: This is what I was always taught in school
20 mins
  -> Thank you.

agree  NancyLynn
2 hrs
  -> Thank you.

agree  AllegroTrans
4 hrs
  -> Thank you.

neutral  B D Finch: Not any more, Daniel (and I) went to school too long ago!
15 hrs
  -> I went to school a long time ago too, when they used to teach English grammar. and I'm too conservative to change my ways or opinions now.

agree  Christine Andersen: This sounds best to me, but gets clumsy when repeated. It may be necessary to avoid the issue in some way.
16 hrs
  -> Тhank you.
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

12 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +7
the child's


Explanation:
Rephrase, to say "the child's parents"

"It's parents" is not wrong but could sound too impersonal in some circumstances.

Russell Jones
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:02
Works in field
Native speaker of: English
Notes to answerer
Asker: As BD Finch said, in longer texts you sometimes need a pronoun, you cannot repeat "the child's XXX" continuosly, that was the reason of my question.


Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Judith Hehir
14 mins

agree  Daniel Weston: This could work, too
19 mins

neutral  Yvonne Gallagher: agree with "the child's parents" but not with "its" (and you have a stray apostrophe)
1 hr
  -> So I do! Unforgivable!

agree  Giovanna Alessandra Meloni
2 hrs

agree  AllegroTrans: yes, but with a slap from the British Apostrophe Society
4 hrs
  -> Punishment accepted!

agree  Jean-Claude Gouin: I agree with ''the child's parents'' ...
10 hrs

neutral  B D Finch: If it just occurs once or twice in a text this is the best solution, but for repeated use, when you really need a pronoun, it cannot be a substitute.
15 hrs

agree  LaraBarnett
2 days 21 hrs

agree  Phong Le
4 days
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

10 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +1
singular "their" and "him"


Explanation:
usually... unless I know the gender

I'll write to their parents

I'll tell him.

Not "it" anyway.

http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/generic-s...

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 13 mins (2013-10-23 17:30:42 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

You can also try to rewrite to avoid the problem as suggested in link or for formal writing keep to "he" and she"




--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 15 mins (2013-10-23 17:32:48 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

a summary of link's points

"So here's the bottom line: Rewrite your sentences to avoid the problem. If that's not possible, check to see if the people you are writing for have a style guide. If not, use "he or she" if you want to play it safe, or use "they" if you feel bold and are prepared to defend yourself." - See more at:
http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/generic-s...

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 15 hrs (2013-10-24 08:20:47 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

As Anna has discussed "him" is not considered to be PC in many circles today but is still widely used when gender is unknown but if rephrasing isn't possible the the singular "they" can also be used. The previous Proz answer by Charles on singular "they" should be read by all. so am repeating link below. I really do consider "he or she" or the abomination (s)he, which no one suggested as yet, "him or her" extremely awkward and rarely, if ever, use them.

http://www.proz.com/kudoz/English/linguistics/5349098-singul...

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 15 hrs (2013-10-24 08:21:36 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

2nd line above: theN the singular...

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 1 day16 hrs (2013-10-25 09:30:57 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

In reference to using the masculine "he" or "him" of course as AT points out in disc. it is used in legal drafts but is still used both informally and formally in other situations whatever about it being PC.
The other thing that has happened is that the PC aspect has swung the other way in that "she" and "her" is used. Here is an example where it swings from he or she to he/him and she/her:

http://extension.missouri.edu/extensioninfonet/article.asp?i...
When a child is feeling threatened or afraid, he or she can misbehave. Her misbehavior is a way of protecting herself. When you think this is happening, ask the child how she is feeling. Reassure her if she is feeling fearful or in danger. You can then help her deal with these emotions. Never minimize her feelings or tell her that her emotions don’t make sense.
When a child is feeling threatened or afraid, he or she can misbehave. Her misbehavior is a way of protecting herself. When you think this is happening, ask the child how she is feeling. Reassure her if she is feeling fearful or in danger. You can then help her deal with these emotions. Never minimize her feelings or tell her that her emotions don’t make sense.

here "their/they them" used frequently

http://voices.yahoo.com/what-if-child-misbehaving-school-404...

"...While many parents might be tempted to meet with the teacher in private, it is important to let your child know that they are responsible for their own actions. It is also a good way to ensure that there is no miscommunication. The teacher can tell their version of the story, your child can tell their version and future rules can be agreed upon by everyone.

It might also be a good idea to talk to your child before this meeting so they can prepare any questions or comments they might have for the teacher as well..."

here is an interesting Oxford blog on the issue that should be read in its entirety

http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2012/06/he-or-she-versus-...


"... I always aim to stay within the bounds of good English, but I inadvertently incurred the ire of some people with the following sentence, in a recent blog about forming plurals of loanwords:
Ironically, the person who wrote the question above is revealing their own ignorance.
My faux pas? I used a singular noun (person) followed by the plural possessive determiner their. It’s clearly a contentious issue: several commenters believed that this was beyond the pale, while others jumped in to back me up. Presumably the antis (if they live in Britain) are also irritated every time they hear the automated voice on the 1471 phone service (BT caller ID) informing them that ‘the caller [singular] has withheld their [plural] number’. This wording also appears on the BT website:
BT 1471 tells you the last number that called – unless the caller withheld their number by dialling 141 before dialling your number…
When I consulted the two-billion-word Oxford English Corpus (OEC), I found numerous examples of similar usage from around the world, in highly respectable sources such as The Telegraph and the New York Times, but two (or even many) wrongs don’t make a right…so who’s correct and who’s wrong? Is it even an open-and-shut grammatical case?
Mea culpa?
Normally, I’d agree with my critics and readily apologize for any blunder: correct agreement is one of my favourite issues and I’ve blogged about it in the past. However, I freely admit that when I wrote that sentence, it didn’t ring any particular grammatical alarm bells (I also have a safety net, my blog posts being checked by some very astute people at Oxford University Press). What can I offer in my defence? Firstly, I’m in good literary company: according to the historical Oxford English Dictionary (OED), writers such as Thackeray, Oliver Goldsmith, and George Bernard Shaw have all used this construction:
It’s enough to drive anyone out of their senses.
- GB Shaw, Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant (1898)
Secondly, I was an Oxford lexicographer in my previous existence, and it’s the policy of current English Oxford Dictionaries to use plural pronouns and determiners such as they and their in definitions in cases where, formerly, singular forms such as he and his would have been selected..."



--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 11 days (2013-11-03 19:00:00 GMT) Post-grading
--------------------------------------------------

Glad to have helped. An interesting discussion

Yvonne Gallagher
Ireland
Local time: 05:02
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 436
Grading comment
Finally I chose "singular their", may be because I'm a bit conservative too. In any case, thank you to everybody for the very interesting dicussion and the useful suggestions.

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Charles Davis: Having recently defended singular "they" ( http://www.proz.com/kudoz/English/linguistics/5349098-singul... ), I would do so again. In speech, if a pronoun is needed, it's the natural choice and I'd even defend it in writing.
2 hrs
  -> Many thanks Charles. Seems we're still in a minority though:-)//Hmm, missed that previous question so have just agreed with you now! And the case is very well argued as well. Add it to the Glossary!

neutral  AllegroTrans: "their" for singular grates in my book, sorry...// but I will concede that it is acceptable in informal speech
4 hrs
  -> Well rolls off my tongue (and pen) far more naturally than "his/her":-). Though do try to rephrase as well.

neutral  Anna Herbst: "Their" - yes, "him" - when gender is not given - no. See my discussion entry.
14 hrs
  -> Thanks for comment Anna and discussion entry.

neutral  B D Finch: Agree with "their", disagree with "him" (particularly in an educational environment). See Charles' excellent discussion of the issue - link above.
15 hrs
  -> yes, put note and repeated link to previous question
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