EN: anyone / someone + personal pronoun (he, she, his, her / they, their / one's)

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by Parigigi, May 22, 2008.

  1. Parigigi Senior Member

    Paris
    France, French
    Bonsoir,

    comment reprend-on le quantifieur "anyone" en anglais, lorsque l'on commence une nouvelle phrase par un possessif qui renvoie à cet "anyone" ? Par "his" ou par "one's"?

    Voici le contexte :
    Its fragile and delicate aspect affects the attitude of anyone who leafs through it. His / One's actions become more cautious; delicately, with his fingertips, he / one turns the pages.
    "Anyone who leafs through it" vient traduire "feuilleteur" en français (je ne pense pas qu'il y ait de terme exact, il faut une périphrase, non ?)

    Merci !

    Note des modérateurs : Plusieurs fils ont été fusionnés pour créer celui-ci.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 3, 2015 at 2:26 PM
  2. wildan1

    wildan1 Moderando ma non troppo

    I would say "anyone who leafs through it's actions become more..."

    But that is more spoken or casual English. The more formal phrasing you suggest sounds unnatural to me. I would tend to rephrase it using "you"

    Affects your attitude as you leaf through it. Your actions become ...
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2008
  3. Parigigi Senior Member

    Paris
    France, French
    Well, it's a presentation of an exposition - you may have to be less direct, don't you think?
    And about the more general grammar question?
    Thanks!

    Or should I use "you" as suggested... But we're talking about an expo, and I don't think one can address visitors in such a way... Any suggestions?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 23, 2010
  4. clairet

    clairet Senior Member

    London & Bordeaux
    England & English (UK version)
    I gave a longer answer but the system crashed..I haven't the heart to repeat it. Here's the short(er) one. Wildan1 has a point (long explanation passed over) but your whole text would need to be in the same style - I'd stick to what you're comfortable with. If you do that, you still have the problem that you're in a very contentious area (long explanation passed over) of English, where there is no correct answer and there will always be someone who thinks that what you have done is wrong. Personally I (and many other people) embrace this and use the neuter plural to complement "anyone", though it makes purists scream. But "one" is too "lourde" and "you" sounds odd if suddenly introduced. So I'd say "...anyone who leafs through it. Their actions..their fingertips..they turn.."

    I think "texture" is better than "aspect" for something you :) feel.
     
  5. wildan1

    wildan1 Moderando ma non troppo

    Anyone who...their (Gasp!) I recognize that one hears this in conversation but I'm too much of a purist to encourage others to use this in formal/written language! Sorry.
     
  6. clairet

    clairet Senior Member

    London & Bordeaux
    England & English (UK version)
    As I said, I respect this opinion but I don't share it.:) (I have similar internal gasps of horror to you when people use split infinitives but I have had to recognise that usage has moved on, even in formal texts, and stop "correcting" draft reports that I see.)
     
  7. Parigigi Senior Member

    Paris
    France, French
    I don't feel like using the "you". The plural sounds strange to me too... Once again, it's an expo. I still don't know if I should be using "one" instead of "he" and "his" ? "... anyone who leafs through it. One's actions become... ; one delicately..."
     
  8. wildan1

    wildan1 Moderando ma non troppo

    With the context you just provided I now can see that you is too informal here.

    I think the parallel use of one...one is what doesn't work in English the way it does in French.

    We use "one" very sparingly in English! One "one" is plenty:

    Just leafing through it makes one instantly more cautious, etc.

    Or maybe better:

    Just leafing through it makes the reader...

    PS: "this is for an exhibit/show" (not "expo"),
     
  9. Parigigi Senior Member

    Paris
    France, French
    Ok, but here is the whole paragraph :
    Its fragile and delicate texture affects the attitude of anyone who leafs / leafing through it. His actions become more cautious; he delicately turns the pages, with just the tips of his fingers. We assume a change in his attitude, a change that would never have taken place had he been confronted to any other casual newspaper. Anyone skimming through it becomes aware of the uniqueness of the object he is holding, of a richness he could not have initially suspected in it.
    It goes on and on with this anonymous person leafing through, you see... The more this thread develops itself, the more I feel lost.

    Maybe I can immediately go for a plural : Its fragile and delicate texture affects the attitude of those who leaf through it. Their actions... they delicately... their fingers and so on.

    Yes, I'm going to stick with the plural - fed up!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 23, 2010
  10. Tim~!

    Tim~! Senior Member

    Leicester, UK
    UK — English
    It's easily the plural form that you need here, purists be damned. The 'singular they' has been in use since Shakespeare four hundred years ago and is totally fine.

    The classic sentence that I always give when speaking about this to people is "If you see someone lying on the floor, call them an ambulance, put them in the recovery position, and check their pulse."

    The alternatives him/her, s/he and so on are vile. There is the choice to define the sex of the person yourself and select either him or her (as long as you are consistent in the sentence) but this is not advisable in these more egalitarian times and still sounds unnatural since the listener will expect to hear them.
     
  11. Parigigi Senior Member

    Paris
    France, French
    Ok, so here it goes :

    Its fragile and delicate texture affects the attitude of anyone who leafs through it. Their actions become more cautious; they delicately turn the pages, with just the tips of their fingers. We assume a change in their attitude, a change that would never have taken place had they been confronted to any other casual newspaper. Anyone skimming through it becomes aware of the uniqueness of the object they are holding, of a richness they could not have initially suspected in it.

    Thanks A LOT!
     
  12. wildan1

    wildan1 Moderando ma non troppo

    You have too many things that they could refer to here to make your text very clear--Their actions? What actions does this sudden plural "they" refer to-- the texture and attitude? This is confusing and a bit jarring to read this way, in my opinion. You would be better off and have more readable text if you recast this without the French "on" in the back of your mind...
     
  13. Parigigi Senior Member

    Paris
    France, French
    How does this sound, then ?
    They become more cautious, delicately turning the pages with just the tips of their fingers. We assume a change in their attitude, a change that would never have taken place had they been confronted to any other casual newspaper. Anyone skimming through it becomes aware of the uniqueness of the object they are holding, of a richness they could not have initially suspected in it.​
     
  14. clairet

    clairet Senior Member

    London & Bordeaux
    England & English (UK version)
    Hi again. You're certainly working at this! (as I said, unfortunately you've hit an area where it is impossible to get an English which satisfies everyone). I note that you are still using a "singular they" in "...their attitude", but I'm one of those who applauds! "...their attitudes..." would sound terribly precious (not a good thing in English!). However...

    (final comment I hope) I'm not sure what a casual newspaper is. Perhaps you mean "had they casually been reading a newspaper"?

    Otherwise fine.

    On the general principles, I fully agree with Tim...(and his example is convincing, I shall remember it).
     
  15. wildan1

    wildan1 Moderando ma non troppo

    Make it more readable and less jarring by making the subject plural, and I think it all works better (sorry I didn't think of this possibility before!):

     
  16. Parigigi Senior Member

    Paris
    France, French
    That's what I finally did, in fact. Thanks Wildan!
     
  17. shura11 New Member

    Switzerland
    French
    Hello,

    I'd like to know what personnal pronoun I should use with "someone" (or other similar words like "everyone", "nobody", ...).

    I know that we use "they" with question tags :
    • Someone lives in this house, don't they ? :tick:
    However, I've read that "their" is grammatically incorrect when it refers to "someone" :
    • Someone lost their keys. :cross:
    • Someone lost his or her keys. :tick:
    Why would the plural pronoun be correct in one case but not in the other ?

    Thanks in advance.
     
  18. a4dareed New Member

    English - USA
    Hello Shura!

    I think it has more to do with the logic of what you're actually saying/asking.

    When we ask:
    • Someone lives in this house, don't they?
      If we're being strict, I don't think that this is grammatically correct.

      we're actually asking - from a logical perspective:

    • People live in this house, don't they? :tick:
    But when we say:
    • Someone lost his or her keys. :tick:

      we're never saying:

    • People lost their keys. :cross:
    1) More than one person can live in a house (so they can be used).
    2) More than one person cannot own/lose* a single set of keys (so their cannot be used).
    *This is not totally true, but when stating that "someone lost... keys" it's implied that "someone" is singular. But when referring to "someone living in a house," the plurality is implied.


    It could also just be that "they" is a gender neutral subject, while "their" is strictly a plural possessive determiner (adjective).

    This is what makes the most sense to me. Hope this helps a little.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2015 at 12:17 AM
  19. shura11 New Member

    Switzerland
    French
    Maybe my examples were poorly chosen.

    About question tags, my grammar book (The Golden Grammar Book, 3rd Edition) says that "they" is used with "somebody", "someone", "anybody", "anyone", "everybody" and "everyone", so I don't think it is gramatically incorrect. The book doesn't talk about any exceptions or nuances.

    It gives those examples :

    1. Anybody can understand this, can't they ?
    2. Anyone could have done it, couldn't they ?
    3. Everybody is coming to your party, aren't they ?
    4. Everyone has had something to eat, haven't they ?
    5. Somebody has made a mistake here, haven't they ?
    6. Someone here smokes cigarettes, don't they ?

    In the last two sentences, I don't think "somebody" or "someone" are implying a plurality. It wouldn't exactly mean the same thing.

    I think "they" as a gender neutral subject has the same acceptance problem as "their". However, it is still used in question tags. Maybe it has to do with the usage of question tags, I don't really know. Hence my question.
     
  20. a4dareed New Member

    English - USA
    Interesting. I think there is a bit of ambiguity in this area. In spoken language, I would say that they and their could both be used when referring to an unspecified sex. Their, however is mainly used in spoken English. I think they is only accepted because of how awkward the construction would be otherwise.

    To illustrate what I mean:
    • Somebody has made a mistake here, hasn't he or she ?
    • Someone here smokes cigarettes, doesn't he or she ?
      Both of these examples would be awkward in spoken English, so are rarely (if ever) used.

      It only works when using definite pronouns:
    • S/he (has) made a mistake (here), hasn't s/he ? :tick:

      or when using one indefinite & one definite pronoun:
    • Someone here smokes cigarettes, doesn't s/he ? :tick:
    Otherwise, they is used.


    With their, however, it is less awkward* to use his or her along with the indefinite pronoun.
    *This is subjective.

    This is the best I can do on the subject, unfortunately. :(

    P.S. This may be better in the English-Only forum section, I'd guess that there are more people there who could help.
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2015 at 1:11 PM
  21. shura11 New Member

    Switzerland
    French
    Ok, thank you for your time and answer. I'll take you at your word and make a second thread in the English-Only section.
     
  22. Kelly B

    Kelly B Senior Member

    USA English
    As a practical matter, it's almost always possible to avoid the issue by using a different tag question, not using the possessive, or some other strategy, and that's what I'd usually do. I don't think most of those sound good, whether or not they're correct. I do understand that it's an interesting question, though.
    Someone lost a set of keys.
    Anyone can... don't you think? right?
     

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