In this android application, in pronoun test, they have a question

If anyone calls,tell ___________ that I'll be back in half an hour

option 1 : his/her option 2 : him/her option 3 : them option 4 : None of these

At first instance, the sentence that I can read fast is

If anyone call tell them that I'll be back in half an hour.

But as everyone refers singular, I thought it'd be him/her so the answer should be

If anyone call tell him that I'll be back in half an hour.

But the application shows right answer as option 1: his/her

Even reading as

If anyone call tell his that I'll be back in half an hour.

doesn't sound pretty well.

So what answer is right, anyone just clarifies me that how to use his/him depending on the context and semantics of the sentence.

  • 2
    Him, him/her and them may be acceptable, depending on the convention house rules call on you to follow; but his/her is always wrong. This appears to be a wholly untrustworthy app. – StoneyB on hiatus Jun 29 '14 at 16:56
  • So do you recommend me to flag that app?? – nmxprime Jun 29 '14 at 16:58
  • 5
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about the erroneous output from a supposedly "teaching" app. I note the first "commendation" for it on the app store page (from the lamentably-named "Grammar Enthusiast") says I have this app on my tab for long and I say it has been helping me a lot. Flag it and bin it. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jun 29 '14 at 18:30
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers: Why is output from teaching apps off-topic? If someone came across an error in a respectable dictionary and was confused by it, would that also be off topic? – ruakh Jun 29 '14 at 20:26
  • 1
    It's not off topic. Just because bad grammar comes from an application, that doesn't preclude it from being addressed here. Similarly, just because an application has an error in it doesn't mean it's bad. Even very good English reference books or applications can have errors in them. If this question is off topic, then any question that cites any error in any English educational book would also be off topic. Also, grammar used by an independent reviewer has no bearing on the source. (And it's not surprising that a reviewer, who is studying English, might have less-than-perfect English.) – CoolHandLouis Jun 29 '14 at 20:56

If anyone calls, tell _______ that I'll be back in half an hour

In typical usage, the blank can be replaced with any of the following:

  • him (Traditionally, this is the formal usage. However, modern formal standards vary on this.)
  • her (This usage is not as common, but one can find it often in some periodicals and news sources which adopt a gender-neutral strategy in which they alternate masculine and feminine language forms.)
  • him/her (Gender neutral attempt, though some feminists question the order of the pronouns.)
  • him or her (Same as above, but more formal.)
  • them (Used as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they for more detail on this usage.)
  • 'em (Spoken. Note that "tell 'em" can be ambiguous between "tell him" or "tell them", so it can be used for both the singular and plural gender-neutral.)

The choice of which pronoun to use depends on context and your own style, or the requirements that you want or need to follow.

Notes: As @StoneyB points out, his would never be correct. Personally, in writing, I would use them or him/her unless context requires otherwise. Conversationally, I use them.

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