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Is "their" the new "his or her?"


Is "their" the new "his or her?"  

  1. 1. Is "their" the new "his or her?"

    • I don't care one way or the other.
      23
    • Yes, it's fine to use "their" instead of his or her.
      44
    • No, his or her is correct.
      17
    • No NO NO NO NO NO! This use of "their" drives me C*R*A*Z*Y*!* and it's just plain wrong!
      34
    • Obligatory Other
      8


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I hope this turns out as a poll.

 

Do you use their instead of a gender-specific (or and/or for either/or) pronoun? A sentence might look like this:

 

Someone left his or her computer on the desk.

Someone left their computer on the desk.

 

So, is their the new his or her?

 

I don't care one way or the other.

Yes.

No.

Heck NO!

Obligatory Other.

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I can't believe I actually voted "I don't care" on a grammatical question, but yes, ultimately, in this concrete thing, I don't. I use both interchangeably, and sometimes I use only one-gender. In informal writing and speech, I'm more likely to use "their", even though I know some grammarians rip people apart for doing that. In formal things, I'm more likely to stick to his or her.

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Do you use their instead of a gender-specific (or and/or for either/or) pronoun? A sentence might look like this:

 

Someone left his or her computer on the desk.

Someone left their computer on the desk.

 

So, is their the new his or her?

Technically (and correctly) it should be thus:

 

Someone left his computer on the desk.

 

That's it. English doesn't have a neuter pronoun. When we don't know the gender, we use "his." It is not s*xist or anything else. It just is. And the cool thing about English is that someone who doesn't like using "his" can reconstruct a sentence to avoid it.

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I think we need a simple gender-neutral third person singular pronoun, and obviously a lot of people agree with me, because their is evolving to take that role.

 

Personally, I like s/he in writing (not that it's at all useful in speaking), and their when speaking because it's commonly used and understood. If someone has a problem with their, then I use she.

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Technically (and correctly) it should be thus:

 

Someone left his computer on the desk.

 

That's it. English doesn't have a neuter pronoun. When we don't know the gender, we use "his." It is not s*xist or anything else. It just is. And the cool thing about English is that someone who doesn't like using "his" can reconstruct a sentence to avoid it.

 

I'm with you, girl. What's so wrong with right???

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I think we need a simple gender-neutral third person singular pronoun, and obviously a lot of people agree with me, because their is evolving to take that role.

 

Personally, I like s/he in writing (not that it's at all useful in speaking), and their when speaking because it's commonly used and understood. If someone has a problem with their, then I use she.

 

I would use s/he if I were posting here on the boards or some other really informal setting but, you're right, it only works in a few settings.

 

I'm not really worried about gender neutral. I do know it bothers ppl and I wish it didn't but, well, I don't know . . . we aren't exactly gender neutral beings, really. I agree with a pp that using his in the general context is just his, just a word and not an agenda.

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Actually I was going to say that "his or her" is stupid, but I'll tone it down a little. It used to be that an "one" was followed by the (in that case non specific) pronoun "his". At some point people started agitating that this was gender exclusive rather than recognizing that you could say "his" or "him" without meaning that it only applied to men.

 

In speech I tend to use "their", even though I know that it is gramatically incorrect. I don't say "his or her". Ever.

 

In writing, I either use "his" or change the sentence so that I get out of that construction.

 

I also think s/he is vile. I would avoid pronouns rather than write that. Not because I don't think women should be included but because I think it is clunky rather than elegant writing.

 

But then I am an archaic dinosaur who learned grammar in the last century; joined the military even when women weren't allowed to pick many service selections because they were combat related; and never thought twice about reciting a Military Code of Conduct that began, "I am an American fighting man." I've been too busy doing things to worry much about if a random pronoun hurt my feelings.

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Actually I was going to say that "his or her" is stupid, but I'll tone it down a little.

 

I also think s/he is vile. I would avoid pronouns rather than write that. Not because I don't think women should be included but because I think it is clunky rather than elegant writing.

 

QUOTE]

 

Alas, Sebatian, you did say it . . . "I was going to say that it's stupid." is just a longer version of "It's stupid."

 

And I think the entire literate world would agree that when elegant writing is the goal, use of s/he is a good way to miss the mark.

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Technically (and correctly) it should be thus:

 

Someone left his computer on the desk.

 

That's it. English doesn't have a neuter pronoun. When we don't know the gender, we use "his." It is not s*xist or anything else. It just is. And the cool thing about English is that someone who doesn't like using "his" can reconstruct a sentence to avoid it.

 

 

My attitude is that if "his" is okay,:001_huh: then let's switch to "her" for a while and see how that flies. Then the sexism becomes blatantly apparent. Not having a gender neutral does NOT excuse sexist language. When you use only "he" or "his" you ARE leaving out 50% of the population!

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I was taught in elementary school to use masculine pronouns as a default.

 

In college we were told to use their. We were lectured about the pronoun fitting the audience. I guess it stuck, even though I hadn't really thought about it in years. So, now, I use masculine in the most formal of writing. 'Their' in informal if I do not know the gender of the recipient. If it is a man, I use masculine, 'she' if the audience is on the feminist side of the fence, their for other females.

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Alas, Sebatian, you did say it . . . "I was going to say that it's stupid." is just a longer version of "It's stupid."

 

And I think the entire literate world would agree that when elegant writing is the goal, use of s/he is a good way to miss the mark.

 

I was trying to say that I'd backed away from the edge of stupid.

 

I think using "his or her" and "s/he" is unnecessary because in the cases where "his" refers to the indefinite "someone" it isn't attempting to be exclusionary language. I think in most cases it is finding offense where none is intended.*

 

If I remember correctly the use of their in these circumstances is something that has gone back and forth. Sometimes indicating gender (or it's indefiniteness) is more important and sometimes indicating number has priority. Seems like we're swinging away from number agreement being the most important again.

 

*As a woman who joined the military over 20 years ago, I've seen plenty of situations where offense was intended or where women were clearly an afterthought (there were urinals in the women's restrooms in the building where my major's classes were, even though women had been attending for over a decade at that point). I don't think that you need to pick a fight with a harmless pronoun.

 

But what do I know? I still think niggardly means that you're stingy and has nothing to do with your racial background.

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I didn't use it for college papers nor do I use it for formal writing but otherwise yes, I use it all the time. I am in favor of making language work for the the purpose needed instead of using awkward constructions simply for the sake of following the rules. Of course, I am generally a not follow the rules kind of person.

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If "you" can serve as a 2nd person singular pronoun and a 2nd person plural pronoun, then I don't see why "their" shouldn't do the same.

 

Especially since it avoids the need for clumsy his/her or s/he constructions, or sexist relics. Not to mention there is a long history of just such a 3rd person singular usage of "their" in English.

 

Bill

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If "you" can serve as a 2nd person singular pronoun and a 2nd person plural pronoun, then I don't see why "their" shouldn't do the same.

 

Especially since it avoids the need for clumsy his/her or s/he constructions, or sexist relics. Not to mention there is a long history of just such a 3rd person singular usage of "their" in English.

 

Bill

 

Silly man, you is not 2nd person plural. Y'all is.:D

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