# its energy level / their energy levels

#### J. Holmes

##### Member
Hi everyone,

I have doubts about using its or theirs in this particular case:

These values represent the net charge of each element, that is, its energy level / their energy levels independently of other energetic factors.

Thank you.

• #### bandini

##### Senior Member
Diría yo...
These values represent the net charge of each element, that is, its their energy levels independently independent of other energetic factors.

#### J. Holmes

##### Member
Diría yo...
These values represent the net charge of each element, that is, its their energy levels independently independent of other energetic factors.
Thank you, Bandini.

But, why using 'its' is wrong here?

#### bandini

##### Senior Member
I don't know that it's technically wrong but when you speak of "each element" you are implying there are more than one, therefore when you introduce the explanatory clause with "that is" you are, in effect, stepping back now and looking at the whole picture in which the objects you are considering are plural.

#### J. Holmes

##### Member
I don't know that it's technically wrong but when you speak of "each element" you are implying there are more than one, therefore when you introduce the explanatory clause with "that is" you are, in effect, stepping back now and looking at the whole picture in which the objects you are considering are plural.
Thank you, Bandini. 'theirs' sounds fine to me. However, I am not completely sure if 'its' is actually wrong.

I have found this other thread with a similar case:

their/its + each

As Agró says there, according to Swan's Practical English Usage, both could be right.

I quote Swan:

"When a pronoun or possessive is used later in a clause to refer back to each (of) + noum/pronoum, the latter word can be singular (more formal) or plural (less formal).

Each girl wore what she liked best. (more formal)
Each student wore what they liked best. (less formal)
Each of them explained it in his/her/their own way." (p. 169, 2005)

According to Swan, in our case, 'its' should be preferred in a formal context. However, maybe the presence of 'these values' as the subject of the first clause makes 'theirs' sound better.

#### bandini

##### Senior Member
Each of them explained it in his/her/their own way." (p. 169, 2005)
To use his/her here sounds a little off to me but I suppose it's a matter of personal style. In English I rely more on what's pleasing to my ear than grammar books of which I know little of, anyway.

#### Forero

##### Senior Member
Hi everyone,

I have doubts about using its or theirs in this particular case:

These values represent the net charge of each element, that is, its energy level / their energy levels independently of other energetic factors.

Thank you.
Your sentence has problems and needs to be recast. One issue with it is that "values" is plural, but both "the net charge" and "each element" are singular.

I can get rid of the singular-plural mismatch, but I am not sure this makes any real sense:

These values represent the net charges on the (various / respective) elements, that is, their energy levels independent of other energetic factors.

The following sentences work because they is often used as a gender neutral singular pronoun:

Each student wore what they liked best. (less formal) ["Each student" is singular; they = "he or she"]
Each of them explained it in his/her/their own way." ["Each of them" is singular; their = "his or her"]

#### gengo

##### Senior Member
These values represent the net charge of each element, that is, its energy level / their energy levels independently of other energetic factors.

"Each element" is singular, and that is what is modified by "energy level," not the plural "values," so the singular form is correct here.

As for independent vs. independently, I agree with Bandini that the former sounds more natural here, although I think both are correct. With the adjective form, it is "the net charge is independent of...," and with the adverb, it is "the values independently represent the net charge." Basically the same idea both ways.

You need a comma after "level" because the whole "that is..." part is parenthetical.

#### J. Holmes

##### Member
Thank you for your clarification, gengo.

Therefore, more formally:

These values represent the net charge of each element, that is, its energy level, independently of other energetic factors.

But could you explain more precisely why I need a comma after level?

Thank you!

#### gengo

##### Senior Member
But could you explain more precisely why I need a comma after level?
It is because the part within the commas is a rewording of the previous part, and is therefore parenthetical. The sentence could also be written as follows.

These values represent the net charge of each element (that is, its energy level) independently of other energetic factors.

#### J. Holmes

##### Member
Actually, the sense of the sentence is:

These values represent the net charge of each element (that is, its energy level, independently of other energetic factors).

Therefore, using the comma before independently may be confusing, unless something else is added (a parenthesis or a dash) to clarify. Maybe this would work:

These values represent the net charge of each element; that is, its energy level, independently of other energetic factors.

Is that ok? Or maybe the comma before independently should not be used at all?

#### gengo

##### Senior Member
Actually, the sense of the sentence is:

These values represent the net charge of each element (that is, its energy level, independently of other energetic factors).
I don't see it that way. Instead, I see "independently" as modifying the verb "represent."

#### J. Holmes

##### Member
I don't see it that way. Instead, I see "independently" as modifying the verb "represent."
I see what you mean. Maybe I am not using 'independently of' correctly.

The actual meaning, in this context, is: net charge = energy level without other energetic factors.

#### gengo

##### Senior Member
The actual meaning, in this context, is: net charge = energy level without other energetic factors.
I'm not sure about that. I think the sentence could be stated as: These values represent the net charge of each element independently of other energetic factors.

If an object has more protons than electrons, then the net charge on the object is positive. If there are more electrons than protons, then the net charge on the object is negative. If there are equal numbers of protons and electrons, then the object is electrically neutral. The part about "energy level" is just using different words to refer to the same idea.

#### J. Holmes

##### Member
I'm not sure about that. I think the sentence could be stated as: These values represent the net charge of each element independently of other energetic factors.

If an object has more protons than electrons, then the net charge on the object is positive. If there are more electrons than protons, then the net charge on the object is negative. If there are equal numbers of protons and electrons, then the object is electrically neutral. The part about "energy level" is just using different words to refer to the same idea.
Thank you for clarifying that point, gengo.

Nevertheless, is there anything wrong with using the expression as I was implying?

Let's use another example: The interviewer will only evaluate her personal resources (that is, the competences she has acquired, independently of any additional help she can get).

Here, the parenthesis intends to clarify 'personal resources'.

Is it ok using a comma before 'independently' in this sentence?

#### gengo

##### Senior Member
Let's use another example: The interviewer will only evaluate her personal resources (that is, the competences she has acquired, independently of any additional help she can get).

Here, the parenthesis intends to clarify 'personal resources'.

Is it ok using a comma before 'independently' in this sentence?
That seems fine to me.