0

So recently, I have been working on a speech. Parts of this speech is a series of questions that I pose to the audience. I realize some difficulty when writing them. For example:

“Who remembers their birthday?”

“Who remembers one thing another person in this room did that make you smile?”

I struggle with the pronouns when addressing the crowd. I know that "they" can be a singular pronoun. However, it would sound quite awkward if I say " “Who remembers one thing another person in this room did that make they smile?”

Could someone suggest what pronoun can I use to address my questions?

Thanks!

  • 1
    In your 2nd example, it should either be "...did that made you smile?" or "...did to make you smile?" – Kristina Lopez Feb 16 '16 at 22:37
  • 1
    Which of you remembers his own birthday? – Hot Licks Feb 16 '16 at 23:23
  • So in proper English we start every sentence with "so." – Drew Feb 17 '16 at 3:16
  • If you're giving this speech in the South, and it's informal or political, you would be obliged to say y'all. "Y'all remember y'all's birthday? Remember the time someone in this room made y'all smile? Dy'all eat?" ("Dy'all" is good Southron for "Did y'all"). – frank May 17 '16 at 2:41
  • "Who remembers your birthday?" would probably not be understood the same way as, "Who remembers their birthday?" – David K May 17 '16 at 3:07
2

“Who remembers their birthday?”

“Who remembers one thing another person in this room did that make you smile?”

Neither of these sound awkward*. The choice between third person and second person when addressing a crowd is a matter of what emotional effect you wish to convey, not a matter of correct or incorrect grammar (except to those rather old-fashioned purists who object to "they" being used as a gender-neutral third person singular pronoun). To me, "you" sounds more personal, as if you are reaching out to each person in the audience as an individual, whereas "they" has a less emotional tone - which may be more appropriate in some circumstances.

The thing wrong with your sentence “Who remembers one thing another person in this room did that make they smile?” is not the use of the third person plural in itself but the fact that you used the third person plural subject pronoun "they" when you should have used the object pronoun "them".

There's an explanation of subject and object pronouns here.

*Actually, one of them does sound awkward, as pointed out by Edwin Ashworth in the comment below. I failed to spot that "make you smile" in the second sentence should be "made you smile".

That point aside, the important thing is that both “Who remembers one thing another person in this room did that made you smile?” and “Who remembers one thing another person in this room did that made them smile?” sound quite natural for a speech.

  • 2
    “Who remembers one thing another person in this room did that make you smile?” is ungrammatical. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 16 '16 at 22:48
  • @EdwinAshworth Oops! You are absolutely right. I assume you are referring to the fact that it should be "made you smile" not "make you smile". I saw what I expected to see. I'll edit it now. – Lostinfrance Feb 16 '16 at 22:53
  • Oh, and strictly speaking "who remembers" is in the third person while "you" is in the second person. Moral: either comment on points of grammar or have that second glass of wine, not both. I'm outta here. – Lostinfrance Feb 16 '16 at 23:01
  • "Can anyone" or "Can anybody" might help with the singular/plural issue. – Stu W Feb 16 '16 at 23:47
  • @Stu W But "Can anyone remember their birthday?" is virtually demanded by some and eschewed by others. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 17 '16 at 10:58

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.