1

Which one is correct?

  1. The small child does whatever his father does.
  2. The small child does whatever its father does.
  3. The small child does whatever its parent does.
  4. The small child does whatever its parents do.

closed as off-topic by Jason Bassford, user3169, choster, RubioRic, Michael Rybkin Nov 9 '18 at 15:45

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3

You have an awkward situation here.

If you refer to the child using his, you assume we are talking about a boy and not a girl – which might be fine if we are talking about a specific case, but might not be best if we are describing a general truth about all children.

If you refer to the child as its, you risk "dehumanizing" the child. It's not necessarily wrong, but it might cause some readers to bristle.

You could use "his or her" for the general case, but some readers find that construct clumsy.

You could also use the singular they, but some don't like that solution, either.

If you are trying to express a general truth, sometimes the best course of action is to pluralize the whole statement:

Small children do whatever their parents do.

This sentence applies equally well to boys, girls, moms, and dads, and doesn't have any grammatical anomalies.

0

If the author does not know whether the "small child" is a boy or a girl, all four choices are appropriate.

If the author knows that the "small child" is a boy, then the first choice is most appropriate.

If the author knows that the "small child" is a girl, then the first choice should end with "her father does" instead of "his father does". This revised sentence would then be the most appropriate choice.

-2

All of them are grammatically correct. However, if you're talking about a human child, you'd only ever use #1 (assuming the child is a boy). #2-4 aren't necessarily wrong when talking about humans, but it's a bit odd to refer to a human child as "it." You may hear #2-4 in nature documentaries where they are talking about non-human children, though #3 is likely less common as it doesn't specify whether the parent is the father or the mother.

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