4

Which is the correct possessive pronoun in this example?

  1. "Those of us who wear glasses should have our eyes examined at regular intervals".
  2. "Those of us who wear glasses should have their eyes examined at regular intervals".
  • @EdwinAshworth Good point. I've now incorporated this into my answer. – linguisticturn May 13 '18 at 23:58
  • @EdwinAshworth Would a person who did not wear glasses say "Those of us who wear glasses should...." It would seem better to say "Those among us who wear glasses..." – WS2 May 14 '18 at 7:10
  • @WS2 I'd use the way you suggest, but I'd not consider 'those of us who' incorrect here. But I'm going to have to adjust/correct my first comment: – Edwin Ashworth May 14 '18 at 7:17
  • It rather depends on whether the person speaking is a member of the subset of 'us' who wear glasses. However, even if the speaker does not wear glasses, I can still see an argument for the 'patronising we' usage "Those of us who wear glasses should have our eyes examined at regular intervals". As in "We mustn't be naughty, must we Tommy? Or we'll get smacked." – Edwin Ashworth May 14 '18 at 7:18
  • @EdwinAshworth There speaks a retired schoolteacher! – WS2 May 14 '18 at 7:23
2

In the most likely reading of these sentences, the speaker is among those who wear glasses. In that case, it is the first one:

[1] Those of us who wear glasses should have our eyes examined at regular intervals.

Compare to the following examples from published literature:

Those of us who are part of this journey know that our lives do not obey a certain order and that events do not occur in a predictable manner. (source)
I pray for those of us who know that honor of giving of ourselves to protect... (source)
The problem was that to those of us who were weak or fat, there was, in our eyes, no hope that we would ever be able... (source)

Test preparatory materials make the same point.

Pass Key to the TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language (p. 187):

Incorrect:   Those of us who are over fifty years old should get their blood pressure
                     checked regularly.

Correct:      Those of us who are over fifty years old should get our blood pressure
                     checked regularly.

Barron's GMAT: Graduate Management Admission Test (p. 144):

Incorrect:   Those of us who care should write to their congressman.
Correct:      Those of us who care should write to our congressman.

When their would fit

There are at least two kinds of contexts in which their would be appropriate†. They are quite rare, and I haven't been able to find examples of them in published literature. Nevertheless, here they are.

First, imagine the speaker is addressing his fairly large family. Imagine also that although some members of the family wear glasses, not all of them do, and, in particular, the speaker does not. In that case, it would be appropriate for the speaker to say

[2] Those of us who wear glasses should have their eyes examined at regular intervals.

Second, there is an even less likely context where their would be appropriate. Imagine the speaker is a parent addressing a group of parents, some of whom wear glasses. In this case it doesn't matter if the speaker wears glasses as well. The speaker is discussing arranging eye exams for the children, in particular who should be making the arrangements. For whatever reason, the speaker thinks it is the parents who wear glasses who should be making the arrangements. Now when he utters [2], their refers to the children. The speaker means the following: 'Those of us who do wear glasses should make arrangements for the kids to have their eyes examined at regular intervals.'

†Thanks to Edwin Ashworth for pointing out that there are such contexts.

  • I'd obviously fail the TOEFL test if this is anything to go by. Of course, there is an alternative interpretation. – Edwin Ashworth May 14 '18 at 0:06
  • @EdwinAshworth Hehe. Yes, there is. – linguisticturn May 14 '18 at 0:09
  • 1
    I think the most natural assumption would be that if the person is speaking inclusively, they would use us and our, but if exclusively, they would use you and their. Other variations, while not "wrong," are much less common. – Jason Bassford May 14 '18 at 0:35
  • 1
    @JasonBassford Agreed. – linguisticturn May 14 '18 at 0:39
0

"Those of us who wear glasses should have our eyes examined at regular intervals".

This is an interesting question! Something you could do to help is look at the first pronoun, "us", which tells you that the speaker is included themselves among people who wear glasses. Therefore, the answer is 1, because the second pronoun should be "our", not "their".

If you're having trouble with some of the tricky wordings found in TOEFL, one website that I like to recommend is www.bestmytest.com because they have really in-depth, high quality lessons available that address just this sort of issue.

I hope this helped! Best of luck!

-1

Those of us agrees with our. Better yet: "We who wear glasses should have our..." (We...should have our...).

Their would work for "Anyone who wears glasses should have their eyes..." or "Whoever wears glasses should have their eyes..."

Study Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement, for better understanding.

  • There are over twice as many Google hits for "those of us who know their" as for "those of us who know our". While I'm not claiming that this is final proof of acceptability, it is evidence of actual usage. The linked article here does not cover the "those of us who" expression and so is irrelevant. – Edwin Ashworth May 14 '18 at 7:34

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.