Can you please tell me if we would use their or her as a possessive pronoun in this sentence?

  • Each of the girls in Mark's shop spent their money buying cakes.

  • Each of the girls in Mark's shop spent her money buying cakes.


'Their' would be more colloquial - except that a sentence beginning 'each of the girls' is never going to be colloquial; so use 'her'.


When one uses "each," one is intentionally singling out every individual member of the common group. To my mind, that fact screams for the use of singular pronouns.

  • But 'their' is used in certain situations as a singular pronoun, and there are many who endorse say 'The murderer left their gun in the garden'. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 21 '17 at 22:09
  • 2
    Your answer doesn't discuss the acceptability of using singular 'their' in this case and hence does not fully address the question. The article sumelic links to looks at the broadening of the usage, and the question of acceptability. Since it is not definitive, sumelic wisely sticks to a 'comment'. // I'd say that gender-neutral its for a person is non-standard. *'A butcher must wash its hands'. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 21 '17 at 22:50
  • 1
    I notice that I have been awarded a couple of down-votes, undoubtedly with more to come. I would rather have had the approval of Mmes. Rawn and Clarke (middle-school English teachers) and of Mmes. Royer, Greaney and Crozier (high-school English teachers) than to have every up-vote ever cast here. – Senex Ægypti Parvi Apr 22 '17 at 20:30
  • 1
    According to Wikipedia, 'singular they had emerged by the 14th century and is common in everyday spoken English, but its use has been the target of criticism since the late 19th century.' Both ACGEL and CGEL take the view that the usage is nowadays generally acceptable. I'd take the view of Professors Quirk, Huddleston etc over that of quite a few schoolteachers. And such authority is what ELU is looking for. Wikipedia says elsewhere '...use of it can be dehumanizing, and thus inappropriate.' – Edwin Ashworth Apr 22 '17 at 23:10
  • 1
    Doesn't the question turn on the word each? Is it not obvious that the girls in Mark's shop spent their money buying cakes would be correct except for each of? In this case it doesn’t seem to me to matter whether the girls combined their cash and spent the pool on communal cakes, or every girl spent her own money on cakes. Each of the girls could take their only if, for instance, each girl agreed to spend the pool on cakes… It seems wholly perverse anyone would have thought of down-voting Senex for posting something so obviously true, it’s almost axiomatic. – Robbie Goodwin May 13 '17 at 21:30

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.