need a suggestion

English translation: everyone knows he must return but nobody knows when

03:16 Apr 9, 2005
English to English translations [Non-PRO]
Other
English term or phrase: need a suggestion
Which is the correct usage:

Everyone knows that they have to return but as if nobody knows when they will return.

Everyone knows that he has to return but as if nobody knows when he will return.

Everyone knows that everyone has to return but as if nobody knows when they will return.
Sonu
English translation:everyone knows he must return but nobody knows when
Explanation:
>> everyone knows he must return but nobody knows when <<

"Everyone" is singular and thus takes a singular verb ending ("knows") and a singular pronoun ("he") unless you're referring to an exclusively female group (default/neutral = male, as in most languages).

It is common in spoken English to use "everyone" with a singular verb ending but plural pronouns to avoid gender implication. ("Everyone knows they must return.") Though common in spoken English, this is unacceptable in proper written English, as it actually means: "Everyone knows that they [some other persons] must return."

If you do not like the sound of the male default, then say: "All (the people) know that they must return but none knows when."
Selected response from:

Michael Schubert
United States
Local time: 09:27
Grading comment
Thanks to all of you for your great help and informative answers. Keep up the marvellous work!
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer



Summary of answers provided
5 +10everyone knows he must return but nobody knows when
Michael Schubert
4 +1None - recast
David Sirett
2 +3Everyone knows that they have to return, but nobody knows when they will.
Peter Linton
4all know they must return but none knows when
mannix


  

Answers


12 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +10
everyone knows he must return but nobody knows when


Explanation:
>> everyone knows he must return but nobody knows when <<

"Everyone" is singular and thus takes a singular verb ending ("knows") and a singular pronoun ("he") unless you're referring to an exclusively female group (default/neutral = male, as in most languages).

It is common in spoken English to use "everyone" with a singular verb ending but plural pronouns to avoid gender implication. ("Everyone knows they must return.") Though common in spoken English, this is unacceptable in proper written English, as it actually means: "Everyone knows that they [some other persons] must return."

If you do not like the sound of the male default, then say: "All (the people) know that they must return but none knows when."

Michael Schubert
United States
Local time: 09:27
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 12
Grading comment
Thanks to all of you for your great help and informative answers. Keep up the marvellous work!

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Muhammad Zikri
8 mins

agree  Maria Chmelarova
19 mins

agree  Robert Donahue (X): could he mean "it's as if...."?
24 mins
  -> Could be. It's as if we simply couldn't say from the asker's context ...

agree  trautlady: this is the best one
33 mins

agree  Carmen Schultz: Robert has a good point-there may be something missing in the oiginal copy
33 mins
  -> Definitely something missing!

agree  jmonllop (X): Sorry for my previous answer, now hidden. I must be very asleep... I just copy-pasted seeing the "he" and not the rest.
40 mins

agree  npis
44 mins

agree  humbird: What business "as if" has here? Michael's rewriting made it clearer but original and even his correction is still ambguous.
1 hr

agree  Alp Berker
2 hrs

agree  Michele Fauble: An area of grammar in flux. This is the prescriptively correct explanation.
3 hrs

neutral  Charlie Bavington (X): As a supporter of "they" for gender neutral, I must counter by pointing out that your suggestion could easily mean "everyone knows that he (a particular other person) must return". Pronoun confusion is inevitable with this formulation, whichever way.
20 hrs
  -> But the disagreement of number between verb and pronoun is always unacceptable. If the language were ever to mutate in this direction , it must go all the way: "everyone have to call their mother"; "somebody are talking, I can hear their voice" Likey?
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5 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 2/5Answerer confidence 2/5 peer agreement (net): +3
Everyone knows that they have to return, but nobody knows when they will.


Explanation:
I take the possibly heretical view that these days, 'they' is acceptable in written English.

I grant you that every book on English grammar will describe it as an egregious error. But I think our language is undergoing change, driven by political correctness, because as Michael Schubert rightly points out, 'everyone knows that he has to return' has a gender implication. It is just too sexist to be tolerable these days (and in my view that applies equally to spoken and written English).

Unfortunately the best alternative candidate, 'one', as in 'everyone knows that one has to return' is now regarded as stilted and pompous (though in other languages, notably French, the use of 'on' is entirely acceptable).

To me, 'everyone knows that he has to return' is grammatically correct but stylistically jarring. I think it is only a matter of time before books on English grammar describe the pronoun 'they' as singular/plural, so that grammar and style coincide.

Let me emphasise that this is a heretical view, and perhaps ahead of its time (hence my low confidence level). Michael Schubert's answer is unquestionably correct and helpful, and perhaps the safest course of action right now. But it will be interesting to revisit this argument in 5 or 10 years time, to see how the language is evolving.




Peter Linton
Local time: 17:27
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 4

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  mportal: I think this is because of the instinctive reference to 'every'one being more than one when you are speaking (for native BR speakers, anyway)
1 hr
  -> Good point - 'everyone' feels plural.

neutral  Michael Schubert: Very good comments, but personally, I'll be one of the last holdouts against mixing a singular verb form + a plural pronoun. THAT is jarring! And besides, that still leaves the problem of how to say: "everyone knows they [the refugees, e.g.] must return."
3 hrs

agree  Rania KH
5 hrs

agree  Charlie Bavington (X): I'm with the heretical view on this - in due course, everyone will join us :-) And as for Michael's example - what about "everyone knows that he (a particular refugee) must return"... either way you're stymied with pronoun confusion :-)
15 hrs
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1 day 17 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
all know they must return but none knows when


Explanation:
As I agree with both replies above, I suggest rewording for clarity...

mannix
Local time: 18:27
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 4
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5 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +1
None - recast


Explanation:
None of your sentences are fully acceptable:

- "as if" is wrong in place and context
- "he" is now unacceptable in most UK and US usage, unless it is known that all members of the group are male
- "everyone ... they" is still unacceptable in some more formal contexts/registers because, as Michael says, a singular pronoun is required prescriptively
- the sentences are potentially ambiguous because it is not completely clear that "they" or "he" are members of the group covered by "everyone".

In view of all these problems, it would be best to reformulate the sentence completely. How you would do that depends on the broader context and situation.

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Note added at 2 days 4 hrs 7 mins (2005-04-11 07:23:21 GMT)
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Oxford Guide to the English Language (1984): \"[they] is by no means uncommon in more formal contexts\"; \"Many people regard it as inequitable that the masculine pronoun \'he\' should be used to include both sexes, and therefore prefer to use \'they\'.\"; \"...where \'he\' and \'they\' both seem inappropriate, it may be necessary simply to recast the sentence.\"

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2 days 4 hrs 20 mins (2005-04-11 07:36:08 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

I do not have the Chicago Manual of Style, but gather that, while preferring \'he/his\' in this type of phrase, if \'he/his\' is considered inappropriate, they recommend use of \'he or she\', changing the initial noun to a plural and then using \'they\', or recasting the sentence.

David Sirett
Local time: 18:27
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 8

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  mportal: exactly so - 'he' and 'they' could be people that 'everyone' is (- here you would not say 'are'!) waiting for
49 mins

disagree  Michael Schubert: Ridiculous to assert that everyone/somebody/anyone + he/his would not be used in "any print media"! You'll never find it otherwise except in speech & informal writing. If you can find ANY style guide that accepts "they" in formal writing, I'd like to know
2 hrs
  -> I agree "he/his" is 'grammatically correct'. Acceptable 'usage' is another matter. "he/his" would not now be used in many (any?) print media because of gender issues. "they" or "he or she" is less 'jarring' to many (most?) readers than "he".

agree  Charlie Bavington (X): Upon reflection, you're spot on - it's impossible to make this clear without re-writing it.
14 hrs
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