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I had the following questions on an exam:

SECTION 1: GENERAL ERRORS
The following sentences contain ONE grammatical or vocabulary error that has been underlined. Briefly explain why it is an error.

Question 1: Jessica boasted for having won the first prize.
Question 2: The teacher wondered where were the students at the time.
Question 3: The men are sociable beings by nature.
Question 4: He has not yet gone to the bed.
Question 5: His room's windows are open.
Question 6: It is everybody's duty to defend their country.

I understand the issues with questions 1-4, but why are the words/phrases in italics in questions 5 and 6 considered as an error?

  • It would be helpful to know the source of your information claiming that there are errors in these sentences. – Shoe Nov 6 '17 at 9:01
  • SECTION 1: GENERAL ERRORS The following sentences contain ONE grammatical or vocabulary error that has been underlined. Briefly explain why it is an error. Question 1: Jessica boasted for having won the first prize. Question 2: The teacher wondered where were the students at the time. Question 3: The men are sociable beings by nature. Question 4: He has not yet gone to the bed. Question 5: His room's windows are open. Question 6: It is everybody's duty to defend their country – Eleni L. Nov 6 '17 at 9:07
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    Thanks. The first four are clearly ungrammatical. But the ones you cite in your question are more controversial. Have a look at this question about the possessives of inanimate objects: english.stackexchange.com/questions/1031/…. And this one about the singlar they: english.stackexchange.com/questions/192/… – Shoe Nov 6 '17 at 10:36
  • There's nothing wrong with either sentence. Rooms have windows. And singular they is fine in all but the most formal contexts. – AmE speaker Nov 6 '17 at 18:49
  • Clare, that's what I thought. But this is a question in an exam in Cyprus! – Eleni L. Nov 6 '17 at 21:35
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The second question is incorrect because everybody is ALWAYS singular. You must use his country (or his or her country). The first sentence is awkward--why not just say The windows in his room? Yet, technically, I don't consider it incorrect, but horribly worded.

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    @GlenPeterson Singular they is nothing new, it's rather the annoying prescriptivist peeves like "generic he" that are the annoying new kids on the block. – oerkelens Nov 6 '17 at 16:23
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    @dwight What do you mean with "everybody is ALWAYS negative"? Are you saying that you can not form positive sentences using everybody? – oerkelens Nov 6 '17 at 16:24
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    @GlenPeterson singular they/their is definitely not "historically wrong." There are several Q&A's (mostly the answers) that show its been used for hundreds of years. Just search the site, or the Internet, for singular they. – AmE speaker Nov 6 '17 at 18:52
  • The room's windows is rather unusual but not wrong. Strictly of course everybody's is always singular; that's why it's not everybodies'. Most people won't even notice, let alone care if you use a plural singularity in a pub or a politically-correct council chamber but that doesn't mean it's a good idea in a language exam. – Robbie Goodwin Nov 7 '17 at 12:35
  • Thanks @oerkelens and Clare. I learned something new! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they – GlenPeterson Nov 7 '17 at 14:56

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