When Russell Wallace and Darwin independently proposed similar theories, Darwin had already accumulated extensive evidence with which to support his ideas.

I found that on 'Majortest.com'. Here it is said that using his is wrong as it is an ambiguous pronoun. By using "his" it is unclear if the evidence supports Darwin, Wallace, or both?

To correct this should I use his own or something else?

  • That's a ridiculous question on majortest. Why would Darwin be accumulating evidence to support a theory of which he was unaware? They proposed their theories independently.
    – TimR
    Nov 2, 2017 at 22:47
  • 1
    "Although Jones and Smith reached the finish-line in a dead heat, Jones had dropped his baton." It's a mystery how Jones ever managed to get hold of Smith's baton!
    – TimR
    Nov 2, 2017 at 22:54

1 Answer 1


A reason his could be wrong is because it's possibly ambiguous, we don't technically really know if his is referring to Darwin or Wallace, though I think it would be safe to assume it's referring back to Darwin.

Since the ideas are the same between Darwin and Wallace, it's safest to not use a possessive determiner, but a demonstrative one instead, e.g. those ideas.

Additional context may make it more sense to say "his own", e.g. if the focus of the preceding sentences is on Darwin, for example.

  • The antecedent is Darwin, ergo his would refer to Darwin. his own is just emphatic. The question was not about the possibility of its being wrong...
    – Lambie
    Nov 2, 2017 at 14:17

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