An application has the customer registry and when i click on it, there is a button "Turn inactive", when i click it the following message is displayed:

"This customer has outstanding transactions. It can't be made inactive."

Is the use of "it" correct because the customer is being referred as an entity? Wasn't suppose to be "he"?

  • 2
    "Their account cannot be made inactive". You could use "His ..." or "Her ..." if you know them to be male or female, respectively.
    – AdrianHHH
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 13:58
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    It may be more clear if you see it thusly: This customer('s account) has outstanding transactions. It can't be made inactive.
    – Davo
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 14:45
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    It's not clear to me. What can't be made inactive? The customer? The transactions? Something else? I would rephrase it like AdrianHHH says: The customer's account can't be made inactive.
    – stangdon
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 15:09
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    Thanks, @GabrielAbel. I would not refer to a customer as "it", because a customer is usually a person, or at least treated like one, and we don't refer to people as "it". At the same time, "he" implies a certain gender, which isn't really appropriate if the customer is female or an entire company. Again, I would avoid the entire issue by saying "the account" or something similar.
    – stangdon
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 15:44
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    Possible duplicate of Can 'it' be used to refer to a person? Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 18:34

2 Answers 2


I don't think so. I don't believe the it here refers to the customer, but rather to their account. More context is needed to be certain, but I don't believe one can make a person "inactive" in the way implied here.

  • Added more information about where the message is displayed. The customer is just a registration indeed. My question is if it's correct to refer to him as or if it's better to refer to the person the registration represents. Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 15:33
  • The question is a bit abstract at this point. If you are talking about a real, live person, you absolutely use "he", "she", or "they" as it may apply. But the application is a digital representation. In OOP there is probably a "Customer" class/object which is being flagged as inactive, and that can be referred to as "it". And you're not making the actual customer inactive, you're flagging their account as inactive. @GabrielAbel
    – mstorkson
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 16:11

I wouldn't use "it" for a customer, I'd say you should provide what you want to say. You can always use he/she

  • 1
    See the edit to the question.
    – James K
    Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 16:53

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