Drawn to their interdisciplinary research, I began to study in xxx Department at xxx University.

Can I use their to refer to "xxx Department at xxx University" mentioned later? Is it a bad practice?

  • 7
    Your example is fine. Pushing the referent further out (like into the next sentence) might get confusing (but might also happen sometimes in real speech).
    – The Photon
    Dec 11, 2013 at 3:29
  • Yes, perfect. As a native speaker I think that it is fine. Heed @Thephoton's advice though.
    – GKFX
    Dec 12, 2013 at 17:08
  • 1
    An explanation by John Lawler: english.stackexchange.com/questions/109843/…
    – user230
    Dec 12, 2013 at 21:56

2 Answers 2


Yes, this is a correct form. Just pay attention not to mix subjects. In your case you have "Department" which can be uniquely identified by "Their".

Now watch this:

Drawn to their employment perspectives, I began to study for Analyst of New Markets in the Economy Department.

Now this is unclear: does the education of Analyst of New Markets offer good employment perspectives, or the Economy Department - you have two different subjects both of which agree with your pronoun. You created an ambiguity.

Even worse if you omit or mix up the subject.

Having taken the gloves off and releasing the reins, the horse Lady Anna rode on began grazing lazily as she daintily jumped down from the saddle.

Bad, bad, bad. Always pay attention to the subject!


This is correct, except that technically you should say "drawn to its research,..." since "their" is plural and the department is not plural.

  • I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "technically", but I know I disagree with the implication of the statement. Here's one BrE and one AmE instance of the department gave their approval, and I see nothing "technically incorrect" in either. Dec 27, 2013 at 16:50
  • 1
    "Department" may not be a plural noun, but in this context, department can be taken as an aggregate (that is, "the department gave their approval" is roughly the same as "the people in the department gave their approval", much like, "We should be very sorry if Parliament gave their sanction to such humbug.").
    – J.R.
    Dec 27, 2013 at 18:42
  • I'm a little unclear, in the posted phrase, whether "their" means the Department or the University; being North American I'm slightly more likely to think of a University in the plural sense than a Department. But this has nothing to do with the phrase order: "I went to Dept X in Univ Y because their chairs were comfiest" has the same issue.
    – CCTO
    Feb 19, 2020 at 18:18

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