A message from our CEO about the future of Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange. Read now.
40

"Is it a boy or a girl?" I'm wondering about the grammar: what role is that "it" playing in that sentence? Is it a personal pronoun or a dummy pronoun? 1.) The word "it" is the grammatical subject -- we know this because of the subject-auxiliary inversion in the interrogative clause. 2a.) Depending on the context, it could be reasonable for a ...


37

Is it a girl or a boy? Is highly unlikely to offend anyone but someone who exhibits a combination of speaking poor English and being very obsessed with grammar — while not understanding the concept of grammatical gender. But if you really want to avoid all risks, why not ask it the way you phrase earlier: Did you have a girl or a boy? Which, of ...


25

I'm afraid it would be wrong. You should never use it to refer to people, except perhaps when the word you are referring to is child and its sex unknown. You are not alone: on this website there are probably a hundred questions about which pronoun should be used for a person of unknown sex. The traditional neutral pronoun for a person is he, his, him: "The ...


15

In short, no, it isn't actually offensive. The simplest way to explain it to your boss is to note that this is just an idiom and the phrase "It's a boy/girl!" is extremely common in English. The more detailed answer would note that we refer to fetuses of unknown gender as "it" and babies inherit that pronoun until a reasonable guess of gender is possible. ...


7

It is pejorative with reference to living beings, esp. social beings. It refers to an inanimate object. Stay with the user throughout, for consistency, for political correctness and for consideration towards the reader. Next, rephrase sentences to circumvent the issue of direct reference: The user defines two variables, x and y, and then multiplies ...


7

It or they. Google buys more of our servers than any other company. They have bought 4,000 servers from us.


7

Yes, that would be perfectly fine. The two phrasings mean basically the same thing, but with a difference in what you’re talking about. When you say as it is, the subject it is a generic ‘it’ that refers vaguely to ‘the current situation’ or something like that. It could be rephrased to “the way things currently stand” or “in the current state of things”. ...


7

Hmm... Did you consider that "them"'s referrent might be unexpressed? Them refers not to cookie, but to "cookies", the plural form of the noun expressed in the sentence and whose existence is implied. Not all pronouns belong to nouns that are expressed elsewhere in the sentence. "Are they going to help?" "They" is all by itself. Or try: "The man called and ...


6

I agree that this is not offensive. Babies have been referred to in the neuter gender for years. It's the simplest way to refer to the baby without saying something like, "Is the baby a boy or a girl?", "Is the child a boy or a girl?", "Is he or she a boy or a girl?", or even worse, "Are they a boy or a girl?" I wouldn't be afraid of making the baby sound ...


6

Well, you definitely don’t want to use he, since there is no single male antecedent, nor she for similar reasons. The notation he/she is severely unappealing for a whole multitude of reasons, but beyond its ugliness, it still won’t work here because there is no single notional individual behind it all. That leaves you with they or it, either of which is ...


6

Your example sounds just fine to my ear, but if I replace the subject and verb in the sentence, I can create a less acceptable sentence, such as: I like this teacher so much that I befriended dozens of them. Or, even more absurd sounding: I like Mike so much that I befriended dozens of them. The absurdity owes to the pronoun-antecedent disagreement, and, ...


5

Singular the police seems to be very common in Indian English journalism. Googling “the police have” and “the police has” with “site:indiatimes.com” yields claims of 1,430,000 hits for the plural and 525,000 hits for the singular—and on a quick “eyeball” survey the singular hits appear to be only about 5% or 10% false positives like “trust in the police ...


5

As a native speaker, the first example, "The previous mayor was a woman, wasn't she?", sounds right. The second example, "The mayor is male, isn't it?" sounds very wrong, because the pronoun "it" is not used for people in English; rather he, she, or even they can be used to refer to a singular person. So a standard usage in the second example could be "isn'...


4

If you have a male goblin, then speak of his thing; if a female goblin, of her thing. Animals still take his or her, not its, unless you simply do not know the creature’s gender. An animal is an animate, and things with animas merit animate determiners and pronouns, not inanimate ones. A male animal is a him, a female animal is a her. Never call a ...


4

The choice depends on whether you are intending to treat the creature as a person, not a human or animal. For instance, Charlotte's Web anthropomorphises animals, using his or hers for ownership. On the other side of the coin, it was typical to refer to the belongings of slaves as its; even though they were human, they were not considered people.


4

Use one's to be consistent. There is nothing like an animal attack video to remind one of one's mortality. Carl Mason Franklin, To Carolyn with love, 1998, p.284: In telling the Trustees of my affection for WSU, I made the point that one should never forget one's roots.


4

If the question is, why would someone refer to the the Mayor as 'it', the answer may be that they didn't really. It is possible that what was heard wasn't 'isn't it', but 'innit' Innit short form of isn't it. Used at the end of a statement for emphasis: "It's wrong, innit?" "They're such a wicked band, innit." The usage is part of Urban British slang ...


4

I'm not sure what you mean by "grammatical": the meaning of this word varies between lay people, experts, and other experts. (That is, even experts argue about the precise meaning of calling something "grammatical".) I don't see why the technical expert definitions would be relevant to your question, and you haven't listed any specific linguistic theory that ...


4

I think that if somebody wants to be called they, you should call him or her they. Similarly, if they want to be called he (or she) you should call them he (or she). It's common courtesy, like calling somebody who doesn't like his given name Jim rather than James (not to mention calling [untypable symbol] the artist formerly known as Prince). And I expect ...


3

I'd rephrase it entirely, as something like, "One of us has to start talking, don't you think?"


3

Use we. One of us has to start talking, don't we? It seems a little strange, but that's because people wouldn't phrase the (rhetorical) question that way. One of us has to start talking. or Shouldn't one of us start talking?


3

In general, a plural pronoun should go with a plural referent. However, there are a number of exceptions to this rule, and I believe this is one of them. In particular, you can use a number of them, dozens of them, hundreds of them, many of them, and so on with a singular referent. Consider the following sentences, all taken from the internet (found by ...


3

It's Paula Poundstone seems to me to simply be the answer to an (unspoken but presupposed) question Q: Who is it? A: It's Paula. A question like Who is this person? is taken as a given in any formal introduction. And this is the introduction of a number of speakers on stage before a performance. There are special conventions for this context, as ...


3

"She'll be performing Friday at the Comedy Club, it's Paula Poundstone." In your context, the expression "it's Paula Poundstone" can be considered to be a truncated it-cleft. This usage is acceptable and has been for a long time. It is part of today's standard English. The it-cleft's relative clause has been omitted, because its info is redundant and ...


3

I've always understood this as indicating the state/situation of that person being present. "She's Paula Pountstone" means "That person(she) is Paula Poundstone." "It's Paula Poundstone." means "The situation(it) is that Paula Poundstone is here."


3

The 'rule' is that you go left until you find the first antecedent that works. In your example that would be stars. This is not particularly intuitive. The type of pronoun limits its antecedents. A personal pronoun, for example, must refer to a person, so in a sentence like "Mary went to the shop she had noticed the day before", 'she' cannot refer to the ...


2

Is it offensive? Do they mean anything in particular when they say it? No. It's just what people say when they are enquiring as to a baby's sex. It's like asking whether the thank in thank you is a verb or not. As an English as a Foreign Language teacher, I teach students that "Is it a boy or a girl?" is one of the first questions they should ask, because ...


2

I think in this context 'it' is actually referring to the term of 'boy' or 'girl'. Similar to if someone said, "What is your name? Is it Joe?" The 'it' in this sentence is not calling the person an it but referring to their name. It in the context of the initial sentence is a place holder for the sex of the child. I think it is much more awkward when ...


2

The writer makes a hundred feet plural to emphasise that each individual foot was a struggle. It's not a single stretch of 100 feet; it's a hundred tiny journeys which have been struggled through and which would need to be undone. The rest of the question is entirely right: when you are considering a single distance, or a single amount of money, then use a ...


Only top voted, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible