I am trying to translate Osamu Dazai's essay 如是我聞(Thus I heard from the Buddha) into English.

The original text belongs to the public domain: http://www.aozora.gr.jp/cards/000035/files/1084_15078.html

You can read about the author here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osamu_Dazai

You can read parts of my translation here: http://lang-8.com/1483508

Here is a part of my translation:

There is a group of old "moguls". I have never met any one of them. I have been amazed by their confidence. Where does that come from? What is their "god"? Recently I have found it out at last. It is their family, or rather, the ego of their family. That is their true religion. I think I was deceived by them. To use a vulgar phrase, it's just that they love their f***ing family.

The original text:


My question: Is the following sentence grammatically or semantically, or in whatever sense native English speakers have, correct?

To use a vulgar phrase, it's just that they love their f***ing family.

I ask this because "they" is plural, but "their f***ing family" is singular. It seems to me that "they just love their f***king families" is a bit unnatural.


Each member of the group of the moguls has their own family.

  • 1
    Could it be possibly one of two different things: 1) all the moguls are from the same biological family?; or 2) they all belong to a figurative "family" as in The Godfather? Interesting that Google Translate uses "home" instead of "family". – Peter Feb 27 '16 at 21:38
  • I'm not going to spark an edit war by removing it, but I would just point out that so far as I can see, the inclusion of the word "fucking" here has absolutely no effect on the grammaticality of the text under consideration. Or indeed, probably, the meaning, if we ignore the implications of anyone taking offence. In fact, my guess is the biggest difference it makes is that more ELL users might be tempted to click on the title of the question purely out of prurient curiosity. – FumbleFingers Feb 27 '16 at 21:56
  • "it's just that each of them loves their <bleeping> family." their functions like his/her and does refer to an individual mogul's family. – user3169 Feb 27 '16 at 22:08
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    This would be a question for JLU SE, but I am curious how you jumped from 可愛いだけ to "f***ing". – user3169 Feb 27 '16 at 22:17
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    @user3169 You know that Japanese and English are very different languages. And Japan and the US or the UK have very different cultures. So a word-for-word translation does not make sense. When you translate a Japanese literary work into English, you should try to be faithful to the author's messages, not necessarily to his words. – Makoto Kato Feb 28 '16 at 6:24

This sentence is perfectly fine, grammatically and all of the above. It sounds totally natural to me (an American). "Their" is the possessive pronoun for the plural "they." In English, the possessive pronoun matches the pronoun, not the noun.

If you were to replace "they" with any of the following pronouns, you would have the following:

I - My

You - Your

He - His

She - Her

Us - Our

They - Their

  • Thank you for your answer. I'm not sure if you understood my question correctly, however. "They" in the sentence "They just love their fucking family" refer to the group of moguls. As I wrote in my remark, each member of the group has their own family. So the moguls love their families. Regards, – Makoto Kato Feb 28 '16 at 0:11
  • In your example, Mine should be My to match the other possessive forms. (It is my family. The family is mine. It is their family. The family is theirs.) – jsejcksn Mar 4 '16 at 20:43
  • @JesseJackson You're right, of course - thanks for catching that. – cccg03 Mar 4 '16 at 20:51
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    @MakotoKato The sentence is grammatically correct. The word "each" is implied in the sentence. They each just love their fucking family. This brings the possessive and family back to being tied to a single person. – Tofystedeth Mar 4 '16 at 22:09

In English, the adverb of a direct sentence comes before the verb:

To use a vulgar phrase, *it's just that they f***ing love their family.*

In the current sentence,

To use a vulgar phrase, *it's just that they love their f***ing family,

fuck***g functions as the adjective to the noun family. However, fucking family

sounds totally awkward to me and contradictory. "Fucking" is meant to emphasize how much they -love- their family.

  • I don’t know why you'd find this usage awkward or contradictory. This vulgar word is often used for emphasis in a myriad of contexts. – J.R. Nov 26 '17 at 19:31
  • I get all that, but this particular word gets tossed around so casually that grammar is all too often thrown out the window – much like in this guy's breakfast recipe, or in this quote from Orange is the New Black: "I am sorry that you guys got the raw deal, but I love my fucking grandmother." People are prone to stick this word anyfuckingwhere they want to. Sometimes, it's better to just roll with it, rather than overthink it until sounds "contradictory." – J.R. Nov 27 '17 at 15:24
  • I have a different point of view, and it is purely grammatical. – Specialist Nov 27 '17 at 16:28
  • Are you saying that my rule doesn't apply, or isn't pertinent ? People stick words everywhere, I would agree on that, and not only bad words like 'fucking'; but also words like 'get', an hybrid of the word f***ck, when it comes to meaninglessness, although I would prefer 'fucking''s efficiency in bringing a point to the table, over a traumatic discussion using 'get' in any conversational aspects. – Specialist Nov 27 '17 at 16:58

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