Is it correct to say "to suggest to someone that they should do something"?

Found in "Advanced Trainer, Six Practice Tests with Answers" by Felicity O'Dell and Michael Black, Second edition, Cambridge University Press and UCLES 2015, page 145:

Why does Erica talk about her cousin? (multiple choice, answer A: to suggest to Ross that he should not overreact)

I looked up the verb "suggest" in different dictionaries (Longman Dictionary Of Contemporary English, Oxford Online Dictionaries, Collins Cobuild Dictionary, Cambridge Online Dictionares) but could not find this structure:

to suggest to someone that they should do something

The structure closest to it is "a simpler explanation suggested itself to me" (Oxford Dictionaries Online)

  • 1
    I can suggest to you (and find that phrase in very many places including dictionaries). I see no reason that "you" cannot be replaced with "someone". – Avon Jul 22 '15 at 10:05
  • 1
    The addressee of a suggestion is marked with to when using the verb suggest. Though often the addressee isn't mentioned. – John Lawler Jul 22 '15 at 14:06

The only thing I can see to correct is the word they, which is a plural pronoun. The word someone is singular, so I would rewrite it as "To suggest to someone that he or she should do something."

| improve this answer | |
  • some"one" is definitely singular... No one will ever say "someone are" and "you is". I'm going to need a thorough explanation with clear examples and not just a bunch of terms that seemingly makes the message clear. To say no is in fact saying that what I wrote is wrong and it most assuredly is not. – Dunnup Jul 26 '15 at 20:09
  • as illustrated by... is not an example and I get that your reply is based off of facts that you believe. Nothing you have replied with helps me understand "my mistake" as you put it. If the term "someone" can be plural, please give me an example of this and how the term "they" could be anything but plural. Is there some kind of rule for thats and that's because that may be helping to obscure your message. – Dunnup Jul 26 '15 at 20:22
  • The time these citations refer to is quite a while back. I understand your viewpoint of them quite well, but it's been over a hundred years since the language has been used that way. English has evolved and not one of these citations disprove the point I made in my reply to this question; however, you said I was wrong. I'm looking for you to point out what is wrong and to exemplify why. All these citations do is prove your point w/really old style English. – Dunnup Jul 26 '15 at 21:29
  • I never said you were wrong; I said I'd like examples and you've done so. The information you've provided doesn't mean that I was/am wrong. Singular they is a regular part of what most would call bad grammar and I understand it perfectly well. What I've gathered from these replies of yours is there exists an exception to the rule. Anyone that understands the English language knows that there are exceptions to almost every "rule" of English. In this case your information would be in addition to and neither a superlative understanding nor a correction. – Dunnup Jul 26 '15 at 21:58
  • What you should've understood from my last comment is that I hear singular they all the time and it makes sense enough to distinguish between a singular and plural reference. This isn't an attack on your understanding but a request for you to elaborate and what is wrong. Just because my explanation doesn't include the idea of a singular they does not make it wrong. To retract my statement would mean that the term someone can and should never be singular. To ask that of me puts you in the wrong I must say. – Dunnup Jul 26 '15 at 22:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.