1

This is taken from an interview (emphasis added):

If you think of a musician who practices, who's never satisfied with their craft, with their playing, always looking for something new, always looking for (to) expand and grow upon his craft, that's Russell.

I have never understood why and how you can start speaking of someone and then change from singular to plural to singular again within the same sentence.

  • You can't. At least you're not supposed to although people do this kind of thing all the time, especially by confusing persons as in: One ought not to do something or other but you see it happening all the time. – Ronald Sole Apr 6 '18 at 7:45
  • One of the tags I added has the seed of the answer; I may add a real answer later if I get time. – Nathan Tuggy Apr 6 '18 at 7:54
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I guess, to be grammatically consistent they should not have suddenly switched to his from their. There is really no particular reason why one would alternate between different pronouns like that. Your confusion is understandable.

As Nathan Tuggy has already alluded to in this comment, this grammatical phenomenon is know as the singular they. The idea behind it is that since the English language does not have a single third-person singular pronoun that can be used to refer to people regardless of their gender, speakers of English have adopted the use of the pronoun they (his was also used quite a lot in this capacity, especially in the past), which is typically used only for plural things or people, to do that. In formal writing, however, you should probably stick to the phrase his or her and use that instead of their as some consider this usage of the pronoun they ungrammatical. I'm not going to waste my time any longer and just shamelessly quote from the excellent article regarding the use of the singular they in English they've got on Wikipedia:

Singular they is the use in English of the pronoun they or its inflected or derivative forms, them, their, theirs, and themselves (or themself), as an epicene (gender-neutral) singular pronoun. It typically occurs with an antecedent of indeterminate gender, as in sentences such as:

"Somebody left their umbrella in the office. Would they please collect it?"

"The patient should be told at the outset how much they will be required to pay."

"But a journalist should not be forced to reveal their sources."

The singular they had emerged by the 14th century. Though it is commonly employed in everyday English, it has been the target of criticism since the late 19th century. Its use in formal English has increased with the trend toward gender-inclusive language.

  • Perfectly true - but your answer overlooks the (inadmissible?) use of his following several uses of their in the sentence.. – Ronald Sole Apr 6 '18 at 9:35
  • @RonaldSole Thank you. I totally missed that. Made some changed to my answer. – Michael Rybkin Apr 6 '18 at 9:54

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