If you let a person in, make sure to see their ID first.

Is it grammatically correct to use a plural determiner for a singular noun in situations like this when it implies that “person”, “client”, “tenant” etc. can be either he or she?


1 Answer 1


This is up for debate in modern English, older styles state that their is explicitly plural, so "his or her" should be used instead. However many people find it easier to just use they/their/them rather than "he or she"/"his or her"/"him or her".

There is not a definitive source on what is right or wrong in this case - as language is spoken by the people and forever changing. But know that almost everyone will know what you mean if you use they/their/them as singular. Also use "he or she" et. al. does not really sound natural to me unless it is technical writing, or a public announcement, or something slightly formal where a person would be reading off of text.

  • Could you provide a source to show there is debate for this? This usage has certainly been the case for 50+ years (personal experience in the UK) and I'm not aware of it ever being debatable. (I might not be in the right circles though?)
    – Smock
    Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 10:49
  • @Smock - The wikipedia article about the singular they has some discussion and links about this controversy. Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 14:00
  • 1
    @CanadianYankee Thanks for that - a very interesting read! Seems much more accepted in the UK, which is probably why I was unaware of the conflict. What a can of worms!
    – Smock
    Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 15:04

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .