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I've read and heard that you can use they/their to refer to the person singular (someone, whoever, a student) when you don't know the gender of the person. Is it stand English to only use he/his?

Ex.: Whoever wants to get his hair cut should come with me.

A good student does his homework.

No one forgets his own name.

Thanks

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  • We have a tag for this singular-they which contains much useful information.
    – mdewey
    Jan 30 '21 at 13:55
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In modern English, you should use they/their, which is called "singular they." You heard correctly: you can use these when the gender is unknown or when you don't want to grammatically assign a gender.

  • Whoever wants to get their hair cut should come with me.

  • A good student does their homework.

  • No one forgets their own name.

It's common to find "he/his" as gender-unkown pronouns in older writing -- the older the more common -- but this is now decidedly out of favor.

One also occasionally finds "she/her" as gender-unknown pronouns. This was a trend that gained popularity in the age of gender bias recognition and awakening and is still followed, but "they/their" are quickly becoming most standard.

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