Singular Their + Singular noun

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Sutemi

Senior Member
Finnish
"Everyone has their passport"
I understand that everyone/everybody is grammatically singular and notionally plural but I don't understand theobject (passport). Why does it have to be singular?
"Everyone has (singular) their (plural?) passport (singular)".

Personally I'd like to say "passports". I know it's wrong but I don't understand why should I say "their passport". Because obviously there has to be more than one passport, so why not say it like that?
"They don't have all of their passports."
Now suddenly we have plural. Or do we? I'm confused. I did read carefully the Wikipedia article about Singular They but in my opinion it's too focused on the gender-neutral aspect and I couldn't figure out the answer to my question.

Sorry for the silly question.
 
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  • Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hello Sutemi, and welcome to the forum.

    We have many threads on this topic and you are supposed to consult them before starting a new one. Here are a few which you may find helpful. You find them by putting something like 'Singular their' into the dictionary look-up box at the top of this page, and then scrolling down to see which thread might answer your question.


    Gender neutral pronouns: If some person ... lost <?> phone? Its! Historic use of singular their.
    Gender-neutral third person singular pronouns: May 2005: Everyone has a right to <?> privacy? his, her, its, their?
    singular + their
    Singular or plural: the {look/looks} ... on their faces
    Singular Their + Singular noun
    Singular/plural - in their opinion has/<has, have> been the ideological implications
    the colour(s) of their hair [singular or plural?]
    Their as Impersonal 3rd Person Singular
     

    Sutemi

    Senior Member
    Finnish
    Hello Sutemi, and welcome to the forum.

    We have many threads on this topic and you are supposed to consult them before starting a new one. Here are a few which you may find helpful. You find them by putting something like 'Singular their' into the dictionary look-up box at the top of this page, and then scrolling down to see which thread might answer your question.
    Thank you Thomas and I will keep that in mind.
    I'm sorry to disappoint you but I didn't find the right answer from the threads you linked. I'm not saying that they don't have it but I'm simply unable to see/understand it.
     
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    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hello Sutemi,

    It is, as you say, hard to separate the political correctness problem (gender neutality) from the singular/plural problem. I mistook your opening post for a question about the first. We do have threads on the singular/plural problem too, of course.

    I've looked but couldn't find anything helpful, so I must stop being lazy and try to help you.

    Usually in English a schoolmistress will say to the children "take out your books" even where each child has only one book. In this regard English is unlike many other European languages.

    It's not out of the question that she should say "take out your book" where each child has only one book, however, and a lot would depend on such things as how distant or intimate she wished to sound with the children, and whether the books which the children had were all the same.

    Everyone has their passport - everyone is singular and each person ought only to have one, so the singular seems natural.
    Everyone has his moods - everyone is singular but each person has many moods, so the plural moods seems natural.

    Three people have their passports - now we have three people and three passports - we use the plural, even though each of the three only has one passport.

    I hope that's a start for you, Sutemi.
     
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