Quoted from a recent comment in another group:

"A F--- is Someone who THINKS they know something about food and the science of cooking."

I've seen this grammatical construct (singular to plural) often enough to know it's, at the very least, not uncommon. I searched the net, but unfortunately I've been unable to determine wether English grammar allows it or not - I guess it doesn't. Is it indeed correct? Or common, or accepted?

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Replies to This Discussion

I think.
You think.
Someone thinks.
They think.
We think.
Jaume thinks.

I believe it is correct, common, and accepted. However, I'm happy to let the professionals correct me if I am wrong.
I think.
You think.
Someone thinks.
They think.
We think.
Jaume thinks.

Got it. I have several brains, but none is my own. :(
I love having a writing prof. on board.
You and me both!
Larry, if you would put some paragraph breaks into your next comment, it would be easier for me to read. Thanks in advance!

It is harder to read capitalized letters, our brains seem to recognize words by their shape, rather then on a letter by letter basis.

An interesting trick is that if you take a ruler and cover the bottom half of a sentence, you can still usually make out the content. However if you cover the top half of a sentence this is much harder, and in some cases impossible. The stuff you learn working in publishing.
It could be argued that "they" has become both singular and plural. It may not be accepted formally, but "ain't" did find its way into the dictionary after all...
I believe that "they" is preferred in the singular when you don't know the gender, or when you mean either gender.

Example: Everyone can come if they bring their permission slip. If they do not have their slip, they will have to stay behind.

Here, we are saying Every individual person can come... in the singular.

Using they is easier than saying his or her. Imagine saying:

Everyone can come if he or she brings his or her permission slip. If he or she does not have his or her slip, he or she will have to stay behind.
Same thing in France: every word is gendered. And the possessive pronouns accord to the object instead to the subject. Many English speakers assume that his = son, her = sa, and their = ses. It's just not true.

So you'll have:

Peter and his shirt = Pierre et sa chemise
Jane and her dog = Jeanne et son chien
Jane and her shoes = Jeanne et ses chaussures

And when the object is plural:

Jane, Peter, and their dog = Jeanne, Pierre, et leur chien
Jane, Peter, and their children = Jeanne, Pierre, et leurs enfants

And we also use a sexist language. When you refer to a group of, say, 10 women, you'll use elles (feminine plural). Add a single man, and you'll have to use ils (masculine plural).

It reminds me that Claude Lévi-Strauss once wrote, in his memoir Tristes Tropiques, something like: "The whole village departed in pirogues, leaving us alone with the women and children". What a macho!
Add a single man, and you'll have to use ils (masculine plural).

That does sound sexist. I guess the women no longer count.
Neither does the man, actually. The only rule is the one that's used to measure these persons' dicks. As always, the longest wins.
I unabashedly use the masculine pronoun when referring to mixed groups of people or when the sex of the person in question is unknown.

Most of the time, I do the same thing.

Men have to share their pronouns, while feminine pronouns are reserved strictly for women.

I have thought the exact same thing.

I refrained from submitting a piece because I was pretty sure that most readers would miss the dig at feminist newspeak and simply think I was incredibly uptight.

Wise choice. You would have received all kinds of hate mail. :]

Using “they” when referring to a singular noun rubs me the wrong way.

I can understand, but I think in English, it is acceptable to us they. Someone correct me if I am wrong.

Any thoughts from our resident experts?

I second that question.




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