Is the following sentence grammatically correct:

"Neither Jake nor Janet brought his or her homework to class."

I understand that it has recently become acceptable to use a singular they for ambiguous gender, but in this situation we can assume Jake is male and Janet is female. Is the sentence formally and grammatically correct as it is? Or should I use a singular they? Thank you.

  • 1
    Neither brought their homework.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 1, 2018 at 22:37
  • 2
    Possible duplicate of Is there a correct gender-neutral singular pronoun ("his" vs. "her" vs. "their")?
    – JJJ
    Commented Apr 1, 2018 at 22:39
  • Many people find "Neither X nor Y" preferable to "Neither X or Y". See Can Neither-Or be used?
    – herisson
    Commented Apr 1, 2018 at 22:44
  • @sumelic Thank you for that reference. It was very informative!
    – ajarnski
    Commented Apr 1, 2018 at 22:51
  • Glad I could help. I have edited the title of your question and the tags because the phrase "indefinite pronouns" usually refers to pronouns like someone, somebody, something. The words his, her and their are categorized as personal pronouns, even when they don't refer to one particular person.
    – herisson
    Commented Apr 1, 2018 at 22:55

1 Answer 1


There is no perfect way out of your dilemma. First, you should write “Neither Jake nor Janet...”. Various ways through have been tried. Of these, “... have brought their homework ...” is the most popular, clumsy though it still seems. Your ‘his or her might scrape through, despite the danger of a perceived uncertainty about the gender of one or both. It would be great if we could abandon gendered pronouns altogether, as the much needed pursuit of gender equality has complicated our our use of pronouns in many other ways also. “... its bone...” would have been fine if Jake and Janet had been dogs: why not humans too?

Well, we are not quite ready for that. So “his or her’ will do, or, at a stretch, “...his/her...”, but “...their...” is the one with social momentum, I think.

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