2

Which one is correct?:

If each of us worked as hard as [we/he/she/they] should, all of our problems would disappear.

There are really two options: since I have to use the same subject for "work" and "should", I have to decide whether the corresponding pronoun for "each of us" is "he/she" (or a singular "they"), or "we".

Logically, it should be he/she/they, and therefore:

  1. If each of us worked as hard as he should, all of our problems would disappear.
  2. If each of us worked as hard as she should, all of our problems would disappear.
  3. If each of us worked as hard as they should, all of our problems would disappear.

The problem is all of these options sound ambiguous to me, as though the pronoun referred to someone else than us. Consider the following hypothetical situation:

He works hard. We don't have to, but it would be intelligent to do so because if each of us worked as hard as he does, all of our problems would disappear.

And now this:

He should work hard, but he doesn't. We don't have to, but it would be intelligent to do so because if each of us worked as hard as he should, all of our problems would disappear.

Basically, what you read in the last fragment is what I think of when I hear "if each of us worked as hard as he should, all of our problems would disappear."

But using "we" also sounds odd to me, maybe because in my mother tongue the pronoun is dropped but the verb ("should") is conjugated in 3rd person singular, not 1st person plural, so "we should" sounds definitely wrong to me. Truth is if I were to substitute "each of us" with a pronoun, I most definitely couldn't use "we".

Am I just overthinking this, or do you native speakers feel the same way when you read sentences 1 and 2? Or was the right pronoun just "we" from the beginning and my headache is unjustified? Which pronoun should I use here?

1

"Each of us" is singular, so "we" is incorrect. I wouldn't worry about a reader interpreting the pronoun as referring to someone outside the group. I think it's clear from the context that the pronoun refers to each person included in "us". If the sentence said "as he does" instead of "as he should", then "he" would be interpreted as referring to someone else.

The other issue here is that there isn't a good non-gender-specific third person singular pronoun. You could use something like "he or she". "They" is also an acceptable alternative. Personally, I think "he or she" sounds best, but it's your call.

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.