Is it now considered appropriate to use plural pronouns to replace singular nouns in order to avoid gender issues?

marked as duplicate by tchrist, MetaEd, Mari-Lou A, Matt E. Эллен, TrevorD Aug 14 '13 at 11:55

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    That isn’t what’s happening when you yourself use epicene they, or singular they as it is more commonly known. They is singular the way you is singular: notice I said you yourself not you yourselves. This is a bogus non-rule invented by people who have tried to make others’ lives unpleasant. It was good enough for Shakespeare and the King James Bible, not to mention countless other fine writers. The peevers need to get off their misplaced high horses with this one. – tchrist Aug 14 '13 at 3:24

No, not yet, but I expect it will be acceptable in a couple decades. They, them and their are being used with increasing frequency as gender-neutral, third-person pronouns, they don't sound "wrong" when they are spoken, their use does not generate any real confusion and the folks who can parse the difference and explain why they are wrong, i.e. people like me, are getting old and when we finally die the rules will change. The pronoun number antecedent agreement is still tested on the SAT, but President Obama seems to ignore it when it suits him. (The last example I recall was in the last State of the Union Address.) These issues are extremely difficult to explain to students who have not studied Latin and have not been taught how to diagram sentences. I know President Obama knows better, but what I'd call standard spoken grammar now sounds almost too elitist.

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    I am moderately old (50s), and I have used they as a singular gender-neutral pronoun my entire life. I didn't invent it, either ... people used this in previous generations as well. This isn't some new-fangled invention like you seem to think it is. – Peter Shor Aug 14 '13 at 10:34
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    -1 ditto (60s) - and as @tchrist says in the comment above, it was used by Shakespeare and the King James Bible - perhaps you remember them being written? – TrevorD Aug 14 '13 at 11:53
  • What is "the SAT" (for the benefit of (I assume from your context) us non-Americans, from whence English came. And I don't understand the numbered items below your answer. – TrevorD Aug 14 '13 at 11:55
  • Well, sixteen hours ago my answer was wrong and I appreciate TrevorD's correction. My answer was correct forty years ago, at least as far as the old English composition handbook from my undergraduate days goes. The strict agreement-in-number approach is still being taught in some curricula. I have reviewed a number of recent released items from the Scholastic Aptitude Test (one of two tests used in the United States by college admissions officials) and, in contrast to my answer, the concept is no longer tested. I go now to vote down my own answer. – Michael Owen Sartin Aug 14 '13 at 20:25

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