One doubt about the gender in English Hello everyone. I have a doubt about the gender in English and I want to know if someone can help me with it. When you are talking about an abstract person in singular and you want to show possession of something, what should I use "her" or "his"? What is the normal? I write and example: I would like to know a teacher and his/her pupils. What should I use here "his" or "her"? Thank you in advance.
Aug 21, 2018 9:19 AM
Answers · 4
If you do not know the gender of the teacher then you would not use his or her in this example but you would use the word 'their'. 'I would like to know a teacher and their pupils.' Is this what you are asking?
August 21, 2018
Using "they" as a singular for the "abstract" case is pretty well-established. A sentence like this passes completely unnoticed by almost every native speaker: "I don't know who took my tools, but they really caused a problem." The less "abstract", the more apt it is to sound funny or new. But most of the controversy surrounding use of "singular they" is about non-abstract persons. It's a complicated subject and you can expect usage to differ depending on who's talking or writing and what usage they grew up with. Historically, English teachers have often considered the male pronoun the "universal" one, so you would find "I would like to know a teacher and his students". I believe this usage to be outdated but it does exist. It's certainly the way I was taught but doesn't reflect how I use the language. Sometimes you can say things in a different way to avoid the issue. For example, "I would like to know a class, including the teacher and students", or "I would like to know a teacher, as well as the students." Some of the connotations or emphasis can be different but this can sometimes work.
August 21, 2018
This is an old problem in English. Not everyone agrees on the use of 'they', 'their' or 'them' as a substitute for he/she, his/her or him/her, in other words, switching to the plural as a singular form. I personally think it is perfectly acceptable to do so, and a good way out of the problem, but many in the English-speaking world would disagree (and as many would agree). Otherwise you get yourself into the sticky problem of always having to use he/she, etc. if you don't know the gender.
August 21, 2018
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