Quoted from a recent comment in another group:

"A F--- is Someone who THINKS they know something about food and the science of cooking."

I've seen this grammatical construct (singular to plural) often enough to know it's, at the very least, not uncommon. I searched the net, but unfortunately I've been unable to determine wether English grammar allows it or not - I guess it doesn't. Is it indeed correct? Or common, or accepted?

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I think.
You think.
Someone thinks.
They think.
We think.
Jaume thinks.

I believe it is correct, common, and accepted. However, I'm happy to let the professionals correct me if I am wrong.
I think.
You think.
Someone thinks.
They think.
We think.
Jaume thinks.

Got it. I have several brains, but none is my own. :(
I love having a writing prof. on board.
You and me both!
Larry, if you would put some paragraph breaks into your next comment, it would be easier for me to read. Thanks in advance!

It is harder to read capitalized letters, our brains seem to recognize words by their shape, rather then on a letter by letter basis.

An interesting trick is that if you take a ruler and cover the bottom half of a sentence, you can still usually make out the content. However if you cover the top half of a sentence this is much harder, and in some cases impossible. The stuff you learn working in publishing.
It could be argued that "they" has become both singular and plural. It may not be accepted formally, but "ain't" did find its way into the dictionary after all...
I believe that "they" is preferred in the singular when you don't know the gender, or when you mean either gender.

Example: Everyone can come if they bring their permission slip. If they do not have their slip, they will have to stay behind.

Here, we are saying Every individual person can come... in the singular.

Using they is easier than saying his or her. Imagine saying:

Everyone can come if he or she brings his or her permission slip. If he or she does not have his or her slip, he or she will have to stay behind.
As a native German speaker, I bring a certain bias to this question, because in German, grammatical gender and biological sex are not very closely related. For example, if I refer to a man as a person in German, I must use the feminine pronoun because "Person" is feminine. Likewise, if I refer to a woman as a human being, I must call her a "he" because "Mensch" is masculine. The rules are perfectly unambiguous.

We have our own issues with political correctness in the German language, but it seems to me that the pronoun argument in English is related to the fact that English does not clearly distinguish between biological sex and grammatical gender. Because I’m kind of a stickler for form, I unabashedly use the masculine pronoun when referring to mixed groups of people or when the sex of the person in question is unknown.

Some years ago I considered submitting a tongue-in-cheek opinion piece to my local newspaper, arguing that language is one of the few areas in which women are the privileged ones: Men have to share their pronouns, while feminine pronouns are reserved strictly for women. I wanted to argue that a proper feminist should refuse to cede linguistic ground to men and not return masculine pronouns to exclusive use for males, thereby protecting one of the few privileges women have. I refrained from submitting a piece because I was pretty sure that most readers would miss the dig at feminist newspeak and simply think I was incredibly uptight.

Using “they” when referring to a singular noun rubs me the wrong way. So, for mostly aesthetic reasons, I unabashedly write things like “Everyone can come if he brings his permission slip,“ to use Dallas Gaytheist's example.

While I have no doubt that this is grammatically correct and sounds much better than the gender-neutral alternatives, I do wonder if it can nevertheless be considered to be bad writing because it violates convention. Any thoughts from our resident experts?
Same thing in France: every word is gendered. And the possessive pronouns accord to the object instead to the subject. Many English speakers assume that his = son, her = sa, and their = ses. It's just not true.

So you'll have:

Peter and his shirt = Pierre et sa chemise
Jane and her dog = Jeanne et son chien
Jane and her shoes = Jeanne et ses chaussures

And when the object is plural:

Jane, Peter, and their dog = Jeanne, Pierre, et leur chien
Jane, Peter, and their children = Jeanne, Pierre, et leurs enfants

And we also use a sexist language. When you refer to a group of, say, 10 women, you'll use elles (feminine plural). Add a single man, and you'll have to use ils (masculine plural).

It reminds me that Claude Lévi-Strauss once wrote, in his memoir Tristes Tropiques, something like: "The whole village departed in pirogues, leaving us alone with the women and children". What a macho!
Add a single man, and you'll have to use ils (masculine plural).

That does sound sexist. I guess the women no longer count.
Neither does the man, actually. The only rule is the one that's used to measure these persons' dicks. As always, the longest wins.


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