Lately, I've been trying to understand the use of pronoun agreement in depth. While in the process I came across this website.

According to the Author:

Professional writers might revise the sentence so that a pronoun is unnecessary. Sometimes, they make the antecedent plural so that they can use the natural-sounding they, them, or their. Or they might decide to alternate he and she in the piece so that both genders get mentioned.

Using he or she or him or her is technically correct. But it's also bad style. Avoid these constructions if you can.

In the case of following example, what are ways you could avoid using his or her pronoun?

Everyone should take his or her seat.

I am beginner with English grammar, so it would be great if you explain it with clear and simple examples. Also please feel free to demonstrate with your own examples and share your tips.

  • 2
    This question essentially covers the same territory as Is there a correct gender-neutral, singular pronoun ("his" versus "her" versus "their")? and many others on the same topic. – Erik Kowal Dec 21 '14 at 4:34
  • You will find advice in these threads that doesn't match that given by the source you mention. The use of 'singular they / their' is fairly recent as an acceptable (by many!) device. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 21 '14 at 4:40
  • @Erik Kowal I'm fighting off a bug that fights back by waking me at inconvenient hours. I take it you don't usually sleep. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 21 '14 at 4:41
  • @EdwinAshworth - No; I prefer to wake people at inconvenient hours. – Erik Kowal Dec 21 '14 at 6:35

Personally I would say their and I think that, for me at least, that would sound more natural in informal speech at least.

However I would say that his or her is also correct, but perhaps sounds more formal to me and would maybe appear more in writing.


Head teacher speaking in assembly (fairly formal, but not consciously so) “Could everyone please take their seats”

In written instructions, e.g. For a performance

The performer would then invite the volunteer to take his or her seat.

Perhaps also the difference could be defined as when talking to/about more than one person, it is better to use their, or they. When speaking if just one person, who's gender is therefore defined, but as of yet unknown, you could use his or her.

| improve this answer | |
  • They/their/them is the only 3rd-person personal pronoun in English that doesn't inflect for gender. Therefore, its use as a non-specific indefinite pronoun is a grammatical solution that occurs to everyone at some point in their English-speaking life, and it has been the norm for at least 4 centuries, by the best authors. So that's the correct answer. – John Lawler Dec 22 '14 at 3:37

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