In Italian, I can use the following sentence without revealing the gender of the person I am talking of.

L'utente preferisce mantenere protetta la propria identità. (The user prefers to keep [possessive adjective] own identity protected.)

While the grammar gender of propria and identità is feminine, they aren't refering to a female person; so, I can say propria identità when referring (for example) to my aunt, my mother, or my uncle.

How do I translate that sentence and still keeping it gender-free? Do I need to replace propria with her/his own or is there a better way not to make explicit the gender of the person I am speaking of, including changing the sentence from active to passive?

Notice that I could use the plural, in Italian, and make the sentence the following one.

Gli utenti preferiscono mantenere protetta la propria identità. (Users prefer to keep their own identity protect.)

The sentence would have a different meaning, though, since it is generically referring to all or most the users, not specifically to a user.


Their is the pronoun you're looking for.

The user prefers to keep their identity protected.

They isn't necessary a plural pronoun. It could also be used as singular, meaning he/she.

Singular they - Wikipedia

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  • 1
    This is an example of what is called singular they. Although this kind of use has gained widespread acceptance, some still consider it ungrammatical, especially in formal use. There is mixed advice and information on this topic. See, for example, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they. nicael, you are welcome to edit this or something like it into your answer, if you'd like. – Jim Reynolds Jan 7 '17 at 11:10
  • Could I also change the sentence from active to passive, to make it gender-free? – kiamlaluno Jan 7 '17 at 12:03
  • @nicael I just asked if turning the sentence from active to passive is another way to make it gender-free. – kiamlaluno Jan 7 '17 at 12:47
  • @kiam Oh, sorry! I've misread your comment. Well, yes, you could turn it into "The identity of this user prefers to be kept protected". But, in my opinion, the passive doesn't sound nice here. – nicael Jan 7 '17 at 13:21
  • 1
    Note that the singular they is semantically singular but grammatically plural. It takes plural verb forms and otherwise behaves in a sentence as if it was plural. This is similar to how grammatical gender works in Spanish and other languages with it - people know that la mesa (the table) isn't actually a girl even though the grammar says it is. – Robert Columbia Jan 7 '17 at 14:00

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