Grammar Tips (문법팁): Plural Pronouns for Singular Indefinite Pronouns

Is it all right to use plural pronouns for reference to singular indefinite pronouns? Check this post and find out.

Photo Source: Pixabay

According to Merriam-Webster, we were taught to always use the masculine singular pronouns for grammatically singular indefinite pronouns, such as “everyone,” as well as non-gender-specific singular nouns, such as “friend,” because a group of 18th-century grammarians decided so. These grammarians preferred inaccuracy of gender over inaccuracy of number:

  • Everyone should do his best.

However, today, we more commonly use the gender-balanced “his or her”:

  • Everyone should do his or her best.

Either is fine, but neither is advisable for longer sentences as both would prove to be wordy in such:

  • Everyone should do his or her best in whatever situations he or she finds himself or herself in.

That is why Merriam-Webster says that plural pronouns are a favorable choice for reference to singular indefinite pronouns. It is because:

  1. Singular indefinite pronouns, like “everyone,” usually imply a plural even if they are grammatically singular.
  2. Both indefinite pronouns and plural pronouns share the quality of having no gender identification.
  • Everyone should do their best in whatever situations they find themselves in.

To know more about this topic, click here.


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