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My hair is short so I'm growing them for my wedding

Is it grammatically correct to use "them" with hair?

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    I didn't quickly find a duplicate, but this seems related: Hair grow or hair grows. We also ask that you include your own research in your posts. See Details, Please and the Contributor's Guide (Asking) for more tips and examples. – Em. Jun 26 at 4:19
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    @Kat: There are cases in English where they takes a singular antecedent; consider "Someone has forgotten their coat". It's obvious to native speakers that hair is not such a case, but this site is for people learning English, to whom it may not be so obvious. – ruakh Jun 26 at 23:32
  • You can say "them the donut people" but not "them the donuts" (quote alert: anyone picking up on the reference here?) – PatrickT Jun 27 at 8:47
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No, use "it" for sentences where we talk about somebody's entire head of hair. Use "them" for sentences about a small well-defined group of hairs, or about seperate hairs, in case of an almost bald person.

Hair can be used in several ways

The word Hair is a noun that could be described as either countable or uncountable mass (material), singular noun in modern English morphology. Its morphological category depends on the context used by a speaker or writer for their speech. For example:

I put several hairs under the illuminating mirror of a microscope to explore the outter structure of a hair as my learning laboratory work. Hair is a countable noun in the context.

Several of an unknown dog's hairs of the same colour remained along the edges of the hole in the fence, which could inform the detective that the opening in the fence had been made recently. Hair is a countable noun in the context.

'I need my hair trimmed', he said sitting down comfortably in the hairdressing chair. Hair is an uncountable mass noun in the context that is used as singular noun syntactically.

She has got a bunch of beautiful curly blonde hair. Hair is an uncountable mass (material) noun that is used as a singular noun syntactically.

Quantifiers

In case of the uncountable usage of the noun hair an educated speaker of a well-structured speech, spoken or written, should make use of the so called quantifiers, for this type of nouns, for example, a good/great deal of, a load of / loads of / heaps of / tons of, a lot of, a (little) bit of and many others.

The quantifiers which you are using in the speech tells hearer (reader) what style of speech you are using in the moment of composition, it is either literary or informal, in addition to their major grammatical function of guantifying nouns.

Though, special quantifiers are used with countable nouns as well, for example, many, each, several, a few, both, few, not many and many others.

Collective nouns

We should use a lot of the so called collective nouns in case of well-structured speech, a written one especially, with uncountable mass nouns in some contexts, for example, you may have noticed a noun bunch in an example in the text above.

In linguistics, a collective noun is a collection of things taken as a whole. Most collective nouns in everyday speech are not specific to one kind of thing, such as the word group, which can be applied to people a group of people, or dogs a group of dogs or other things. Some collective nouns are specific to one kind of thing, for example, there are specific collective nouns for using with the noun hair in its uncountable mass (material) category, such as bunch, lock, shock, head, clump and many more others.

A collocation a collective noun with the noun hair sometimes gives the false impression that the noun hair is like a collective noun. This erroneous impression is caused by a combination of different grammatical terms only.

Very sensitive to context

In the syntax of speech, there are many 'traps' in usage caused by the fact that the noun hair is one of the most common, both in the everyday informal speech and in literary writing. Over the centuries-old history of its own use, this word has been recorded in the countless contexts, including those where it is used in the syntactical patterns having the syntactical ellipsis. A number of its uses in syntax depends on the professional environment, the nature of the activity, and the like. Therefore, before using this noun, especially in the spoken speech, listen to the prevailing patterns of its use and collocations with it in certain communicative environments and contexts.

Conclusion

No. We should only use the pronoun it in the sentence here.

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    This is a really, really good answer... but it needs a conclusion answering the question. In the particular case provided by OP, using ‘it’ is correct; there’s consensus rather than ‘prevailing patterns of ... use’. – Fivesideddice Jun 26 at 11:37
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    Thanks really. I had voted for the answer of using 'it' is correct before I strated with my own input here. I agree. Using it ought to be a consensus answer here. – kngram Jun 26 at 11:47
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    "Use "them" for sentences about a small well-defined group of hairs, or about seperate hairs, in case of an almost bald person." I think this can be reworded a bit for clarity. The word "them" can correspond to the word "hairs" but never to the word "hair". – Jetpack Jun 26 at 19:32
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In this case you want it, not them. The word hair can be either an uncountable noun (also known as a mass noun) or a countable noun depending on context. You're using it as an uncountable noun in that sentence, so you'd want it:

My hair is short so I'm growing it for my wedding.

You use it (and the singular form) when referring to a mass noun (or to a single example of a countable noun). You use them (and the plural form) when referring to more than one of a countable noun.

In that particular sentence, you almost might use out with growing because to grow out is a phrasal verb meaning to let something grow longer:

My hair is short so I'm growing it out for my wedding.

(Don't confuse it with to grow out of, which has a different meaning.)


So when is hair a countable noun? When you're referring to an individual hair or a group of individual hairs rather than a mass of hair. For instance:

I had several long hairs in my eyebrows, so I plucked them out before the wedding.

But the hair on the top of your head, all together as a mass unit, is an uncountable noun, so you use it.

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    This is a good answer because it uses clear examples and is also written simply and appropriately at the apparent audience. The top answer may cover more ground and go into depth, with useful technical terms, but it takes more work to understand it fully. – Ross Presser Jun 26 at 13:44
  • "growing it out" sounds very American. In the UK you would probably say "growing it longer" – salsaman Jun 27 at 1:03
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    @salsaman - That's interesting. I don't think it's an Americanism though. The only actual example I can bring to mind at the moment was spoken by an English woman (but that's just anecdotal). Collins (the linked dictionary) is primarily a British English dictionary that marks Americanisms as such, and their example "I also let my hair go darker and grew out my fringe." isn't something you'd say in the States ("fringe" isn't used in American English for the hair over your eyes, it's called "bangs"). – T.J. Crowder Jun 27 at 8:46
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    I think growing it out is idiomatic British English. It is what you do after a hair disaster or to revert it to its original colour. – mdewey Jun 27 at 12:31
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Nope, you refer your hair in a unit or in its totality, I think using "it" is most appropriate.

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  • @T.J.Crowder "them" can never be appropriate with "hair", only with "hairs". – Especially Lime Jun 28 at 19:22
  • @EspeciallyLime - That's true, yes, as I discuss in my answer. I wasn't trying to suggest "them hair" is ever correct. – T.J. Crowder Jun 29 at 6:52
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The correct usage is "it" and not "them" because "it" is a singular pronoun and "hair" is a singular noun.

As it has been mentioned, hair is a collective noun because it represents all the many (plural) hairs on a person's head as just one singular collection of things--"My hair".

COLLECTIVE:

  • Hairs (plural) = Hair (singular)

NOUN

  • Hair is not a "person" or a "place" so it must be a "thing".

SUBJECT, ACTION, OBJECT:

  • The person in this sentence ("My") is the subject doing an action ("growing") to the object of the sentence ("hair").

PRONOUNS:

  • "them" (used incorrectly for "it") is a pronoun as it references the already mentioned noun "hair"

OBJECTIVE PRONOUNS:

  • Since the pronoun is used to refer to the object of the sentence, the pronoun is called an objective pronoun.

SINGULAR NOUN=SINGULAR PRONOUN:

  • Part of the confusion here is that "it" and "them" both are objective pronouns but the object that the pronoun ("them"/"it") is referring to is a singular noun ("hair").
  • You can only use a singular pronoun with a singular noun.
  • The plural for "they" is "them" so "them" is not a singular pronoun. "It", on the other hand, is singular.

The usage above is grammatically incorrect..unless you intentionally meant to use the plural "hairs" and "them" as a literary device called personification. However, personification is fairly advanced and would definitely be a nonstandard usage here. For example, a writer could imply individual hairs are so special to someone or well cared that they refer to them in this manner. Did you catch that?

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  • It is very interesting presentment of such literary device as personification. Thanks. – kngram Jun 27 at 7:01
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In the given sentence

My hair is short so I'm growing them for my wedding.

You switch from a singular reference (your hair is long - referring to the entire mass on your head as singular hair) to a plural reference (them - referring to single strands), which creates additional confusion.

Consider

My hair is short so I'm growing it for my wedding. (This would also fit, if you one had a single strand of hair..)

or

My hairs are short so I'm growing them for my wedding.

Which both work just fine, because you do not switch the usage. However, the second version is unusual at least.

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  • The last one is super-weird. If you use my hair, people understand you mean the hair on my head. If you talk about my hairs, it sounds like you're talking about some other location... – Oscar Bravo Jun 29 at 8:04
  • @OscarBravo not necessarily, but you’re right, it would have weird, weird implications no matter the context. – Fivesideddice Jul 1 at 12:27

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