CONTEXT: a card game involving more than 2 players. Each player can do multiple things during their turn (including picking a card).

Considering the following sentence:

During each player's turn, they pick a card from their deck.

Can it be understood as:

  1. During each player's turn, each of them picks a card from their respective deck

Or is it clear that only the player whose turn it is picks a card ?

Original sentence was:

During each player's turn, he or she picks a card from his or her deck.

If there is an ambiguity, is there an elegant way to rephrase the sentence to remove that ambiguity?

EDIT: For instance, would it be clearer rephrased the other way round?

  1. Each player picks a card from their deck during their turn.


  1. During their turn, each player picks up a card from their deck.

1 Answer 1


This is a classic case of trying to avoid both the clumsiness of repeated he's and she's, and of getting around the gender-neutral singular they.

Your example sentence is not ambiguous and makes the best compromise, using the singular they and their.

You could say:

Each player in turn picks a card from that player's deck

which avoids the singular they that some speakers dislike although many people would doubt that it's any improvement.

Or you can accept the laboured construction of the original sentence.

If there's a simple manner of rephrasing the sentence to please all parties, I'm not aware of it.

  • Thanks for the answer. I wanted to be sure it's not ambiguous. I should have added a context to my original question because the turn of a player is not restricted to picking a card (they can do other stuff), so players won't be picking a card in turn. Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 13:18

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