I'm struggling with a short sentence/title (will be in a video) that I'm trying to translate which literally says:

Encountering a succession of person to observe how each one's way of thinking affects:

  • his way to look at the world
  • ...
  • ...

I need to keep the idea of "succession of (hazardous) encounters" and I do need to end up with a singular (his) and not collective form (their).

I'm not sure about "succession of people" and "each one's way of thinking".

Is this sentence/title correct?

  • Please use blockquotes for your example sentences. – M.A.R. May 2 '15 at 10:12
  • Hmm... you realize that your sentence is incomplete? I don't see a main verb of the sentence there. – M.A.R. May 2 '15 at 10:16
  • @MARamezani Sorry for the Blockquotes. Yes there is no verb, its a short sentence that will followed by a short list of things, in a video. – JinSnow May 2 '15 at 10:28
  • I can only offer my guess (because I'm not sure whether this is the intended meaning): How our way of thinking affects us--Through a succession of people – Damkerng T. May 2 '15 at 12:52
  • @DamkerngT. does that mean that my sentence isn't right, if so why? – JinSnow May 2 '15 at 14:01

In this case, to emphasize that the way of thinking of each individual person in turn will be examined, you can use:

Encountering a succession of persons to observe how each one's way of thinking affects:

  • their way to look at the world

(emphasis added). "Their" is (here) a perfectly valid singular pronoun to use when you don't know (or don't care to specify) whether someone is male or female1, 2. "His" also works, or worked, for that, but it's falling out of fashion* and in this particular case it is more awkward than usual because of the context being an entire collection of people.

Alternatively, you can replace the bolded word, which is rather over-formal, with "people", and that should also work out okay; even though it isn't quite as individual-focused, the context still makes it clear enough, and it's a lot smoother in most styles.

"Each one's way of thinking" is a little awkward, but there's nothing really wrong with it and no obvious substitute. Don't worry about it.

*In part because it sounds sexist and in part just because it sounds odd.
1 OED Online, sense 1.1
2 Merriam-Webster, sense 2

  • @NatbanTuggy Thank you for you confirmation about the use of "each one's way". I did know about the sexism connotation, but I didn't know it sound odd, thank you for that precious info. I do really need to keep a personal touch, a collective touch will completely ruin the meaning and I can't afford to use "their" since it could be either a single or several person. I would be tempted to use the "it", but I guess it would sound odd (and maybe rude) to natives. Since I really need a personal connotation can I use the first list item "his/her" and then using "his" (or "her")? – JinSnow May 3 '15 at 12:31
  • @GuillaumeCombot: "Their" will specifically work for a single person, and is less clumsy in this usage than "his/her". That's what I recommend. ("It" is not usable on people at all, no.) – Nathan Tuggy May 3 '15 at 14:17
  • Sorry to insist but even "each one's way of thinking" + "their" worries me because using "their" could also mean "how the way of thinking of a single person influences the way to look at the world of all the person encountered". I really need to make a difference between this collective sense and the individual-focused one I want: "the way of thinking of a single person influences the way to look at the world of that particular person". – JinSnow May 3 '15 at 14:56
  • @GuillaumeCombot: References added. It's fairly unusual to talk about a single person's way of thinking affecting lots of others' worldviews, and still more unusual to repeat that on every member of a group. So that confusion is not likely. – Nathan Tuggy May 3 '15 at 18:38

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