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When a user does not fill his "about me" section in his profile, the following sentence appears:

Apparently, this user prefers to keep an air of mystery about them.

To my knowledge (which are restricted I admit), it should be

Apparently, this user prefers to keep an air of mystery about him/himself.

I'm pretty sure that I'm wrong, however I really don't understand the use of plural in "them".

Could you please explain me the underlying grammar rule that justifies such a term? Also, I'd be happy to know if replacing them by him or himself would be correct.

marked as duplicate by Janus Bahs Jacquet, Andrew Leach Apr 22 '15 at 12:07

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    This is one of the most commonly asked questions on the site. Singular they has been discussed back and forth hundreds of times here—there’s even a tag for it, which I’ve added to your question. Please have a look at some of the other questions in the category for more discussion. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 22 '15 at 12:06
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    @JanusBahsJacquet ok thank you for the advice. I'll do it. However, I have to say that I don't know what should I have searched in order to avoid a duplicate. Maybe you could point me out to some meta discussion about it. I know how to search if a math question was already asked but for english grammar I don't even know how to approach the problem (of checking if it is a duplicate). – Surb Apr 22 '15 at 12:21
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    It is annoyingly difficult to search for—many of our most-asked questions are (how do you search for whether to use ‘a’ or ‘the’ when both words are ignored by the searching algorithm?). Searching for things like this requires some level of grammatical knowledge. In this case, something like “singular them” would have given you a few hits that would ultimately lead to the canon question; but most things you would think to search for would give you very little. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 22 '15 at 12:28
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When the gender of the person is unknown, 'them' can be used in the sentence. Though, 'him/himself' is also a correct.

Please refer this blog that talks about usage of plural pronoun as singular

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    ok I get it, thank you. But would then "him" or "himself" imply that the user is a male? – Surb Apr 22 '15 at 11:54
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    Not really, its more like a generalization. This may be compared to usage of the word man for humans in general. Its a style of writing and you can choose whichever you are comfortable with. – zen Apr 22 '15 at 12:08
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    @zen an unintended implication of masculinity can't really be avoided by using a masculine pronoun as gender-neutral even if it's correct. The use of man for humankind is rather different as it's generally a mass noun in that context and a singular in other uses. – Chris H Apr 22 '15 at 14:13
  • The link you provides states that you could "Recast the sentence to plural form" if the gender is unknown, but it includes not only using them but also changing the subject to plural, as the example they give suggest: “All people are entitled to their own opinions.” Shouldn't the correct form be "Some users prefer to keep an air of mystery about them., then? – Tulains Córdova Jul 20 '15 at 16:43
  • @user1598390 The article also talks about an additional option. The sentence “All people are entitled to their own opinions.” is correct, along with the sentence "Each person is entitled to their opinion" – zen Jul 24 '15 at 10:26

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