1

To describe my question, I'm going to use example sentences:

The group saw that there was a need to make the necessary revisions to tailor it to each institution before the model could be applied, taking into account their particular size and other conditions.

Vs.

The group saw that there was a need to make the necessary revisions to tailor it to each institution before the model could be applied, taking into account its particular size and other conditions.

First of all, am I grammatically allowed to say 'their' instead of 'its' when I've said "each institution"? I know that sometimes 'their' is used in the singular sense... but barring this case, would it be grammatically correct/possible to say 'their' when the association is with "each institution"? In other words, I'm unsure if when I've said "each institution" that I'm forced to work with the concept in the singular in latter parts of the sentence, even though it would obviously imply multiple institutions if the grammar associated with the use of "each" is neglected.

Secondly, and this is quite related to the first, I am wondering that if I say 'their', that it is actually referring to multiple institutions (plural) even though this is not explicitly stated the way the sentence is written; by simple deduction in the mind, it can be seen that it would be multiple institutions.

Thirdly, is there something not so right about the way these sentences are written? Particularly with respect to the use of 'particular' and the singular 'size' when there are multiple institutions. I've used the singular basically because each institution has only one size, not many, but could plural also work?

  • 1
    For clarity and flow I would use the institution's in place of either its or their. their has an odd clumping effect as you intuit. its could also refer to the model's "particular size and other conditions", rather than those of the institution. – damian May 31 '16 at 10:17
  • "To make revisions to tailor…to…" sounds sort of tautological (tailor to = to fit or to revise something to fit something), don't you think? Besides this, as I understand, it is its (the group's) size and other conditions compared to those known of the model institutions which has to be taken into account before applying the model — so, it is "its" in the sentence. – VictorB Jun 30 '16 at 13:21
1

Singular they/their(s) is a somewhat contested feature of English; you will get varying perspectives on its appropriateness depending on whom you ask. However, it typically is used where he/she or his/her(s) would be gender-biased not where it/its would be used.

Everyone brought their own dinner

(Everyone is not defined as masculine or feminine)

Compared to

Each mother brought her child

where "mother" is unambiguously feminine thus "her" fits.

But for this type of sentence:

The door fell off its hinges

This would not work equivalently:

The door fell off their hinges

Thus, it would be more typical to use "its" with a generic noun like "institution"; although as LawrenceC points out this might introduce an ambiguity since it also refers to the model at another overlapping part. The only way to avoid that is to either not use a pronoun or to rephrase the sentence.

0

First of all, am I grammatically allowed to say 'their' instead of 'its' when I've said "each institution"?

The rule at hand here is a mouthful: "Third Person Possessive Determiner."

  1. The Group
  2. has a model
  3. needing necessary revisions made
  4. to each institution
  5. taking into account (___) particular size and other conditions.

A series of revisions need to be made for Each Institution. Each, of course, implies a list. These revisions will take into account things Each Institution owns, namely their size, but also including other conditions. As we are talking about ownership, in the third person plural (more than one institution) we use Their.

Writing this another way, we could use: "...taking into account, for each institution, their particular size and other conditions."

Secondly, and this is quite related to the first, I am wondering that if I say 'their', that it is actually referring to multiple institutions (plural) even though this is not explicitly stated the way the sentence is written

"Each Institution" implies a List of Institutions. For each institution on the list, their respective "size and other conditions" is taken into account.

Thirdly, is there something not so right about the way these sentences are written? Particularly with respect to the use of 'particular' and the singular 'size' when there are multiple institutions

While I cannot say with any certainty, it appears that you focused so much on Each Institution that you overlooked how the group saw "a need to make the necessary revisions... before the model could be applied." And this is understandable, as there is a lot going on.

  • 1
    This doesn't seem to answer the OP's question about whether its or their is correct. You make a case that the sentence might be better understood if re-worded, but that case is somewhat confusing and irrelevant to the main question – eques Sep 28 '16 at 16:28
0

The group saw that there was a need to make the necessary revisions to tailor it to each institution before the model could be applied, taking into account their particular size and other conditions.

The antecedent of their is most likely something like "all institutions" - something that is implied but not mentioned in this sentence.

Linking it to "revisions" or another plural noun established earlier in context/conversation could be valid but IMHO is less likely what is meant unless earlier context/conversation overrides.

Reasons why the writer/speaker might have chosen their instead of it:

  • The writer/speaker still has "group of institutions" in the mind at the point "taking into account their particular size and other conditions" is expressed.

  • It appears previously in the sentence, not sure what it in to tailor it refers to, but having a second it later in the sentence could be confusing. Using their makes it obvious we are talking about "all instritutions."

  • it in "tailor it" would be resolved to refer to "the model". You do make a good point that "its" may be unclear since you would have two different uses potentially referring to different antecedents. – eques Sep 28 '16 at 16:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.