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Is there a correct gender-neutral, singular pronoun (“his” versus “her” versus “their”)?

I remember reading that "their" is third person plural, not singular. If you are talking about a student, most people would say: "The student opened their locker". If "their" is plural, then you wouldn't be able to use it. If you can't use "their", what do you use?

marked as duplicate by nohat Sep 26 '11 at 22:39

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    You use "their" and ignore the grammar police. The grammar police are completely out of control these days, anyway, with their campaign to eliminate the verb "get" from the English language. – Peter Shor Sep 26 '11 at 22:26
  • "Language was designed for man, not man for language." – Daniel Sep 26 '11 at 22:47
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    When you are speaking of the past, especially with that the, it is hard to believe that you don't know the student's gender. – Daniel Sep 26 '11 at 23:50

This is actually an ongoing change in the language. People used to say "he" if the gender was unknown, but now we think of this as sexist. Some of the choices I've heard are "s/he" "he or she", "she" (used alternately with "he"). "They" seems to be emerging in usage, but I don't believe it's accepted yet in scholarly circles.

See Wikipedia.

There are also the Spivak pronouns, but I think they are too alien to the language.

Personally, I'm a fan of singular "they" (singular possessive "their") and wish the language gods would get around to blessing it!

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