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  1. Neither of the twin brothers paid attention to their studies.
  2. Neither of the twin brothers paid attention to his studies.
    I'm confused with the use of their or his in the above sentences. Are both correct? Please explain it to me. Thanks a lot.
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    I would use his since both twins are male. This is similar to Each of the twin brothers paid attention to his (not their) studies. If the twins are mixed (a male and a female), then using 'singular they' (as in your sentence 1) is a good option.
    – GoDucks
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 5:02
  • 1
    Neither of the twins paid attention to their studies. You mean it is a good option. Thanks again, GoDucks.
    – thein lwin
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 5:15
  • Related: ell.stackexchange.com/q/4682/9346
    – Dan Getz
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 5:36
  • @GoDucks- You should post your excellent comment as an answer, so this will no longer show up as "unanswered." Good job, as always. Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 19:52

2 Answers 2

1

Are both [sentences] correct?

Yes, both sentences are correct.

Please explain it to me.

As GoDucks was kind to reference, the singular they is an excellent way to sidestep the need to dive into gender politics to write a sentence. It even accomplishes this without excluding those of non-binary gender (such as intersex individuals) or dehumanizing the subject with words like it.

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  • 1
    isna.org/faq/hermaphrodite
    – user230
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 5:51
  • Thanks for bringing that up, Snailboat. I've updated the wording to what I now understand is the correct clinical term (which was what I thought, in my ignorance, the word hermaphrodite was). Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 17:06
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I'd say only this sentence is correct:

Neither of the twin brothers paid attention to his studies.

The singular their is used when (a) gender is unknown, (b) gender is possibly fluid (e.g. a group that might have intersex individuals), or (c) more than one gender is represented (e.g. a co-ed class). This is a convenient replacement for the clumsy his and her and respectfully recognises more than the binary male and female.

Since the sentence refers to twin boys, none of the above conditions apply, and there is really no reason to avoid the conventional his.

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