- If somebody wants more coffee they should just ask.
- If the next candidate is ready can you ask them to come in, please.
- When dealing with a customer we want to try and exceed their expectations.
Exercise 1. - Use the expressions in the box and a suitable form of the verb where given to fill the gaps. Where you have a choice between Present simple and Present perfect (3 questions?), use Present perfect. Use contractions wherever possible.
|1.||If anybody wants to take this extra course, could (give) name to supervisor, who will also give more details.|
|2.||When somebody comes to take away the dishes could you ask (bring) us some more water.|
|3.||Could everyone make sure (weigh) baggage before (go) to check-in, please.|
|4.||If anybody had wanted vegetarian food, (say), wouldn't ?|
|5.||Each student should make sure that (have got) a suitable computer, and that (know) how to use it.|
|6.||Every employee must ensure (be) on time for work and that (sign) the register before (start) work..|
|7.||Nobody can avoid paying taxes, even if (earn) very little this year.|
|8.||Everybody should ask very seriously whether (be) ready, before applying for the next stage.|
Exercise 2. - Use a suitable form of Singular they plus a suitable form of the verb where given to fill the gaps. Note that one of them is in Future perfect. Use contractions wherever possible.
Here endeth the lesson and now beginneth the rant.
For some people, however, there is a problem
In praise of Singular they.
What do the dictionaries say?
- Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary
He used to be considered to cover both men and women: Everyone needs to feel he is loved. This is not now acceptable. Instead, after everybody, everyone, anybody, anyone, somebody, someone, etc. one of the plural pronouns they, them, and their is often used.
- Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
The indefinite they is used in all varieties of contexts and is standard ... The use of they, their, them, and themselves as pronouns of indefinite gender and indefinite number is well established in speech and writing, even in literary and formal contexts. This gives you the option of using the plural pronouns where you think they sound best, and of using the singular pronouns (as he, she, he or she, and their inflected forms) where you think they sound best.
- The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (quoted at the Free Dictionary) notes however, that:
... despite the convenience of third-person plural forms as substitutes for generic he and for structurally awkward coordinate forms like his/her, many people avoid using they to refer to a singular antecedent out of respect for the traditional grammatical rule concerning pronoun agreement.
And what about the TEFL experts?
- Somebody/someone/anybody/anyone are singular words, but we often use they/them/their after these words. Murphy - English Grammar in Use (Cambridge)
- They, them and their are often used with a singular meaning to refer back to somebody etc. Shaw - Practical English Usage (Oxford)
What do the linguists say?
- And anyone who makes a living by teaching English language owes it to their pupils to keep a copy in the classroom.
Gerald Gazdar, Professor of Computational Linguistics at the University of Sussex (talking about the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language)
- Jane Austen and all the other writers who use ‘they’ with antecedents like ‘everyone’ aren’t making mistakes, they’re using a feature of English that some grammarians have incorrectly identified as an error.
Geoffrey Pullum - Professor of General Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh.
Arguments in favour of they as a generic pronoun.
- It is already in general use among educated native speakers.
- It is elegant - no he or she, he/she, (s)he, alternating he and she or even worse the various ludicrous attempts at inventing an 'epicene' pronoun such as 'e, hu and zhe, which have met with the total indifference they justly merit.
- It has a long literary history, having often been used by such writers as Shakespeare, Thackery and Jane Austen.
- It is natural English
- It is supported by most non-prescriptivist reference books such as dictionaries and the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language.
- Associated Press and Strunk and White don't like it. (For some of us, that's an argument in it's favour!)
Arguments against they as a generic pronoun.
- A certain Anne Fisher (1719-78) thought that he should replace they as a gender-free pronoun, and some influential style guides followed suit.
- I can't think of any other arguments against.
Silly examples of Singular they
- I talked to the counselor about my problem, and they gave me good advice.
- Each girl wore their uniform.
- As long as one keeps up with the homework, they can pass.
- Merriam-Webster Online
- Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary
- The Free Dictionary
- The Stroppy Editor (20/11/2012)
- Grammarphobia (08/2011)
- Grammarphobia (05/2011)
- New York Times article (reprint)
- Grammarphobia 2008
- MWDEU Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage at Google books - Go to page 901 (enter 901 into the search box and click on the result)
- KeablesGuide - Silly examples of Singular they
- Ex 1. - 1. they give, 2. their, 3. their, 4. them, 5. them to bring, 6. they've weighed, 7. their, 8. they go, 9. they would have said, 10. they, 11. they've got, 12. they know, 13. they're, 14. they've signed, 15. their, 16. they've earned, 17. themselves, 18. they're
- Ex 2. - 1. they, 2. themselves, 3. their, 4. them, 5. their, 6. their, 7. themselves, 8. are they looking, 9. their, 10. their, 11. them, 12. they've looked, 13. they'd found, 14. they wouldn't have landed