I've come across the following sentence where "its" is used, instead of using his/her:

Unless a parent can keep up with its children, its fate is sealed." [example from Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English].

The question is: why do we use its here instead of his or her? Isn't a parent an animated object?

  • Yes, that's very peculiar. Could you please tell us more about where you found that example?
    – tchrist
    Sep 15, 2018 at 12:26
  • ldoceonline.com/dictionary/keep-up-with @tchrist Thanks for your respond so fast, here is the link where i found that
    – Alexey
    Sep 15, 2018 at 12:26
  • Thanks. I can't explain it. That's certainly ungrammatical to me.
    – tchrist
    Sep 15, 2018 at 12:33
  • For explanation, we would need a context. In Longman, it is merely an "example from the corpus".
    – GEdgar
    Sep 15, 2018 at 13:16
  • 2
    I would have written Unless a parent can keep up with their children using the singularised, genderless pronoun.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 15, 2018 at 13:19

1 Answer 1


I'm guessing this example came from something like THIS, talking about computer networking or routing. There are things called "zones" which may be related to each other as "parent" and "child"...

The first (and simplest) case occurs if a parent zone doesn't keep up with its children or if the children don't inform the parent of changes to the authoritative name servers for the zone.

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