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Choose the most appropriate option to fill in the blank.

Later when asked about his decision he said, "The first rule of sailing is, when you see _______ in trouble, you help him."
Options:
(a) anyone
(b) none
(c) someone
(d) one

My try:- I got confused in options (a) and (c). Option (c)None can't be used as it doesn't make any sense. Option (d)one can't be used. But I think both the options (a) and (c) make sense.

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    You cannot really refer to "anyone" as "him," while "someone" can be referred to as "him."
    – Stephen S
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 4:05
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    This might help you.
    – Yuri
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 4:24
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    Sir ----- giving respect to a person Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 5:13
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    I think the "sir" had been fine, but "Stephen S" would be the best person to let you know if he had felt that you were being rude. While it is often perceived as being sarcastic, I can see here that you had not meant it so. Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 8:31
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    Meanwhile, Catija's not totally wrong: It had not been entirely necessary, even if you had meant to express respect for Stephen. But we should all consider whether we should extend our own values to people of backgrounds different from ourselves. Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 8:32

2 Answers 2

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The appropriate fill in is governed by the final him. Since it is singular, someone is used.

"The first rule of sailing is, when you see someone in trouble, you help him."

otherwise,

"The first rule of sailing is, when you see anyone in trouble, you help them."

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    Both "anyone" and "someone" are grammatically singular, and both can be refered to by generic he or singular they, so this test is worse than useless. Both (a) and (c) are grammatically correct, and mean almost the same thing. The real difference is that "anyone" is slightly more urgent, so would be preferred in this context, but a case can still be made for "someone"
    – No Name
    Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 0:16
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All compound pronouns, yes even "everyone", are grammatically singular - the number of the postcedent (in this case, the "him" in "you help him") is not a reliable test to chose between them. Worse, "singular they" has always been a popular (in the sense of "what the people use") alternative to "generic he", so even if the postcedent had been "them", you still wouldn't be able to choose.

Aside: the reason you've gotten an answer and several comments that suggest "anyone" is plural is because singular they, although always popular, is currently deprecated by the establishment and has been for at least two hundred years. Segregating the compound pronouns like this is a misguided attempt to rationalize singular they.

The correct answer is either (a) or (c), they are both grammatical and near perfect synonyms. "Anyone", as the negative polarity alternative (meaning it is used with "not" instead of "someone"), is slightly more urgent, and what I would use, but both options are correct.

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  • I agree. To me the "him" jars in a modern context, irrespective of the pronoun chosen earlier.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 11:04

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