Alguien [Somebody] + possessive pronoun - his/her/its/their

Manuel2P

New Member
Spanish
Quisiera saber cómo se dice "su" en inglés cuando no se especifica el sexo, por ejemplo:

"Alguien cae al suelo y SU cuerpo no se mueve".

¿Se escribe HIS, HER or ITS?

Gracias.
 
  • sandpiperlily

    Senior Member
    Quisiera saber cómo se dice "su" en inglés cuando no se especifica el sexo, por ejemplo:

    Cuando alguien cae al suelo y SU cuerpo no se mueve.

    ¿Se escribe HIS, HER or ITS?

    Gracias.
    You have several options.

    My preferred option is "his or her." This is more inclusive and modern, and is grammatically correct.

    Some people will say "their." This is technically incorrect, as "their" is plural, but it's fairly common.

    The most old-fashioned way is to just say "his" when you don't know the gender. You will still see this occasionally, but I don't recommend you use it, as it's quite sexist to assume that the "neutral" or "generic" person is male!

    It would never be correct to say "its" when referring to a person.

    Hope that helps!
     

    gengo

    Senior Member
    American English
    I agree with Sandpiperlily's suggestions, but will add that in the third case (using "his") a more modern approach is to alternate between feminine and masculine. For example, in a book about babies, the author might use "his" in one section, and then "her" in the next. The reader understands that both refer to an example of sex, not a specific one.

    The use of "their" is extremely common (almost universal) in speech, and is fairly common even in casual writing.
     

    gengo

    Senior Member
    American English
    That's a serious gap for the English grammar. "His-or-her"... three words when it could be just one.
    Yes, it would be great if we had gender-neutral words. Actually, there have been several proposals for such words, but none has caught on as yet.
     

    Kcris

    Senior Member
    Chilean Spanish
    Some people will say "their." This is technically incorrect, as "their" is plural, but it's fairly common.

    The most old-fashioned way is to just say "his" when you don't know the gender.
    The use of "their" is extremely common (almost universal) in speech, and is fairly common even in casual writing.
    I never knew that. In fact, I don't even remember any reading containing something like this.
    Thanks to both of you!

    Guess I'm an old-fashioned! :p
     

    gengo

    Senior Member
    American English
    We also use "they" as a gender-neutral subject pronoun.

    -Who was that on the phone?
    -I don't know. They hung up.

    -I saw someone steal my car, and they took my briefcase, too.
     

    Gloomyta

    Senior Member
    Chile, español
    We also use "they" as a gender-neutral subject pronoun.

    -Who was that on the phone?
    -I don't know. They hung up.

    -I saw someone steal my car, and they took my briefcase, too.
    In Spanish happens a similar phenomenon.

    -¿Quién llamaba?
    - No sé, (ellos) colgaron.

    Regarding to your question, I have seen many times "his/her".

    Hope it helps.
     

    lowenheimskolem

    New Member
    English - US
    "... and God send every one their heart's desire." --Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

    "Everybody has a right to describe their own party machine as they choose." --Winston Churchill, in Encounter, 1954.

    On the contrary, I would advise every English learner to use singular "they" and "their" freely when it refers to somebody of unknown or indefinite gender. Good writers have done so from Chaucer to Jane Austen. If it grates on your ears, you should invest in earplugs, because this usage is completely standard.
     

    sandpiperlily

    Senior Member
    "... and God send every one their heart's desire." --Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

    "Everybody has a right to describe their own party machine as they choose." --Winston Churchill, in Encounter, 1954.

    On the contrary, I would advise every English learner to use singular "they" and "their" freely when it refers to somebody of unknown or indefinite gender. Good writers have done so from Chaucer to Jane Austen. If it grates on your ears, you should invest in earplugs, because this usage is completely standard.
    Welcome to the forum, lowenheimskolem! And thanks for those illuminating examples. I had always been taught that this usage was strictly incorrect, and I had no idea how far back it goes (and what illustrious people have employed it).

    As to whether it's technically "correct," there appears to be considerable disagreement. I found the wikipedia page helpful in sorting it out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they
     

    gengo

    Senior Member
    American English
    I certainly can't speak for sandpiperlily, but I think her point was that in formal writing, it is a good rule of thumb to avoid the singular they whenever it is easy to do so without making the text sound awkward. This is only because the singular they has a somewhat lower register than other forms. However, there are situations in which there is really no good alternative to using the singular they.

    I would guess that the vast majority of English learners will not be writing the kind of prose in which such usage is best avoided, and they should know that this usage is extremely common among even among the best educated speakers. I can hardly imagine speaking at length without using it. To do so would make one's speech sound unnatural.
     
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