I know how to use "their". This means "belonging to them" but can you leave it out as in this sentence:

The main reasons that led single mothers to conceal (their) pregnancy and birth, were shame and economic factors.

It sounds wrong to say "conceal pregnancy" but maybe adding it is wordy?!


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  • Word economy for its own sake is not a prime feature of the English language. the prime feature of the English language is to convey concepts and clarity of concept is only gained by clarity of wording. Missing out 'their' borders on being non-idiomatic and achieves nothing. It introduces a possible ambiguity in that the mothers in question might conceal pregnancies other then their own. – Nigel J Mar 1 '18 at 1:13

I can see that one could argue that the only pregnancies that single mothers would be interested in concealing would be their own, especially given the reference to shame later in the sentence. On that view, the "their" could be omitted. But the very fact that the reasons come at the end of the sentence potentially confuses the reader that the sentence is going to be about concealing pregnancy more widely.

So I would not drop the "their". I would also insert "giving" before birth.

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  • I see. Thanks! Is adding "giving" a grammatical necessity or why would you add it? I also thought that it doesn´t sound idiomatic. – Marcin Nowak Feb 28 '18 at 17:06
  • It is more sense than grammar. If they conceal their pregnancy and birth it sounds as if they are concealing their own birth, which would be absurd. What they are concealing is the fact that they have given birth. – JeremyC Feb 28 '18 at 17:18
  • Would you drop the "them" here, then or not: They often agreed to have a sexual relationship with a man who had promised them marriage. – Marcin Nowak Feb 28 '18 at 17:19
  • It was actually meant to say concealing both. Maybe I should have used "or" in that case. The main reasons that led single mothers to conceal their pregnancy or birth were shame and economic factors. Could the "giving" be dropped then? I am not a native speaker therefore it is really difficult to understand these details. I must get it completely right... – Marcin Nowak Feb 28 '18 at 17:23
  • Your first question: I would drop the "them" because there is no risk of confusion about who is being promised marriage. Your second question: I still think that birth on its own is potentially misleading. The English term for what they are concealing is "giving birth". So for example, when I said to someone that an old female friend of mine had eight children, obviously eight births had occurred, but I was asked to clarify: do you mean she has given birth eight times? – JeremyC Feb 28 '18 at 17:35

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