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As the heading suggests, I'm wondering which is the correct choice – 1 or 2?

  1. Many people use cartoons as their profile picture

  2. Many people use cartoons as their profile pictures

Since "Many people" refers to several different people, each of whom presumably have their own individual profile picture, we're also talking about several profile pictures, so in that sense, it seems that 2 would be the correct option. Still, I can't help feeling that this would mean that each person has several profile pictures... So which is the correct choice??

1 Answer 1

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Assuming that each person has only one profile picture, picture should be singular, and so (1) would be better.

Thism is one of the confusions that can result fromm tjhe use of "singular they". Here "their" ie being used to refer to a person ofm unspecified gender, to avoid assuming that any such person is male by default, and the old-fashioned "generic he" constructions did. Personally, I would prefer:

Many people use a cartoon as their profile picture.

Otherwise I might re-write to use "his or her", but here that would take a nearly total rewrite of the sentence.

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  • Thank you, David! Makes perfect sense! I think this is very difficult, because in my own language, we always use the singular, if there is just one of something for each individual person, so even in a sentence such as "they all shook their heads" we wouldn't use the plural form of "head"...
    – Helen
    Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 19:16

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