Their face or their faces

Discussion in 'English Only' started by polliwoggi, Nov 17, 2009.

  1. polliwoggi Member

    Hello there everybody,

    I have an english grammar question. Even though I am a native english speaker, I do not know my own grammar very well.

    I am writing out a verb table for the verb to wash, with the phrase, to wash one's face.
    Is it correct to say

    They wash their faces or
    They wash their face.

    I think that both are possible but I would like to know which version is correct.

    Many thanks in advance.
  2. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Hi polliwoggi,

    English grammar requires that you use a capital letter for the word English.

    I agree with you that both are possible. I might use one or the other, depending on context.
  3. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    English - UK
    9 times out of 10 you want 'They wash their faces.'

    Both are possible, but in different contexts.

    If there is more than one person performing the action and they are all (presumably) performing the action on themselves, then there is more than one object so it must be in the plural. If they all share a face then you can keep it singular, but this is not really possible unless they are some alien lifeform.

    'They wash their face' is not technically correct but is often used when the subject is just one person, but the gender is unknown or irrelevant. E.g. 'when a person gets up in the morning, they usually wash their face.' This is a matter of opinion - some people would tell you that you should say 'he or she usually washes his or her face', but I personally think that sounds silly and that 'they' is quite capable of being a third person singular pronoun as well as a third person plural pronoun. An alternative is to use the masculine (or, rarely, the feminine) pronoun to encompass everybody: 'when a person gets up in the morning, he usually washes his face.'
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2009
  4. polliwoggi Member

    Thank you very much. I have learned two things now!!!
  5. polliwoggi Member

    I only just read the second post. This clarifies things a lot more. So if I am talking about they, as in third person plural, I should write; they wash their faces.

    Thank you very much. I would have made a mistake otherwise.

    Many thanks.

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