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Here is the sentence I'm constructing:

"To begin, you'll need your school ID, username, and password; if you don't already have this information, your school can provide you with them."

My problem is that it looks like I'm mixing singular and plural here; "them" in this context is referring back to the ID, username, and password, whereas "this information" sounds like a singular object.

I know that "information" is considered a non-count word in English which means it can be used as both plural and singular without changing its form, but in this sentence the result ends up sounding weird.

Can I get some input on how I should revise the sentence?

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  • Do not revise the sentence. It is correct.
    – Drew
    Apr 25, 2016 at 18:15
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    Information is singular, so the correct pronoun is it. Apr 25, 2016 at 18:19
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    Non-counts nouns like "information" are usually invariably singular, not 'both plural and singular' as you stated.
    – BillJ
    Apr 25, 2016 at 18:21
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    You can usually pick out a modifier which makes the uncountable noun countable, e.g. those pieces of information. Because this refers to it in a singular state, the pronoun them becomes ambiguous in that context. You may want to refer to the information using it, instead of them.
    – Alex W
    Apr 25, 2016 at 18:33
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    You could just skip over that word altogether: To begin, you'll need your school ID, username, and password; if you don't already have these, your school can provide you with them.
    – Adam
    Apr 25, 2016 at 20:55

1 Answer 1

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Your first sentence, grammatically speaking, is fine. However, as Peter Shor said, the pronoun it might be better suited to your sentence:

To begin, you'll need your school ID, username, and password; if you don't already have this information, your school can provide you with it.

I would also recommend Adam's way; generally, the phrase less is more applies when revising writing. (To a reasonable extent, of course.) Another way to phrase this sentence is with a dependent clause:

To begin, you'll need your school ID, username, and password, which can be provided by your school.

Here, I omitted the phrase if you don't have it/them, as I don't feel that it is necessary. However, you could also do:

To begin, you'll need your school ID, username, and password, which can be provided by your school, in the event that you don't have them.

But I find that to be more verbose without providing meaning.

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