backs or back

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diogerepus

Senior Member
Korean
Is 'backs' plural because 'their(people's)' is used?
And if 'backs' is singular, will it be incorrect?

I don't like talking about people beind their backs.
 
  • chesty

    Senior Member
    english
    Hello.

    I would avoid confusion by recasting the sentence in the following way:

    - I don't like talking about anyone behind their back.
     

    Hockey13

    Senior Member
    AmEnglish/German
    Hello.

    I would avoid confusion by recasting the sentence in the following way:

    - I don't like talking about anyone behind their back.
    Correct, but the "their" in this sense does add a bit of confusion, I think. "Their" here means "he or she"...I believe it's the modern way of saying "his" in general when refering to "anyone."
     

    Kenneth Garland

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    I agree, Hockey13, but there is a very good account in the other thread showing that this usage goes back a long way! The trouble is, that we also find it uncomfortable using 'he/him' when the person could be a woman.
     

    chesty

    Senior Member
    english
    Correct, but the "their" in this sense does add a bit of confusion, I think. "Their" here means "he or she"...I believe it's the modern way of saying "his" in general when refering to "anyone."
    Hello Hockey, can you specify what it is that, in your opinion, constitutes an added element of confusion when using 'their' in the above context?
     

    Hockey13

    Senior Member
    AmEnglish/German
    See the thread about the use of "they" in the third person singular that Kenneth Garland posted. To the non-native speaker, they usually means third-person plural, hence the potential confusion about the singularity or plurality of the word "anyone."
     
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