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Which would be correct: Male and female ATHLETE that HAS shown good sportsmanship? OR Male and female ATHLETES that HAVE shown good sportsmanship?

Thank you.

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    It depends on whether you are referring to a single athlete who is a hermaphrodite, or two or more athletes who may be of either gender. – TrevorD May 18 '16 at 23:49
  • What is the context? If you're talking about a group that contains males and females I'm not sure that there is a need to mention gender at all, so you could probably say The athletes that have shown good sportsmanship. If you are presenting sportsmanship awards for which men and women are in separate categories, you'd probably be better off saying something like The award for good sportsmanship (male), and the award for good sportsmanship (female). – nnnnnn May 19 '16 at 4:12
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The latter is usually the more common phrase: Male and female ATHLETES that HAVE shown good sportsmanship.

The reason is that the majority of the time you will probably be referring to a group that consists of more than one athlete, thus the plural form.

The exception is when you are referring to someone who identifies as both male and female, then you would use the singular form athlete and preface the sentence with the article the. The resultant phrase is: The male and female ATHLETE that HAS shown good sportsmanship.

Although correct from a grammar point of view, The male and female athlete that has shown good sportsmanship might be somewhat confusing as a phrase. It would then be clearer to write: The ATHLETE, who is both male and female, that HAS shown good sportsmanship. Or, if the plural is appropriate, the phrase is: The ATHLETES, who are all both male and female, that HAVE shown good sportsmanship.

If there is no reason to identify the gender of the athlete(s), then simply The ATHLETE that HAS shown good sportsmanship (singular) and ATHLETES that HAVE shown good sportsmanship (plural) are both grammatically correct phrases.

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    Although OK from a grammar point of view, "The male and female athlete that has shown good sportsmanship" is rather confusing. Taken out of context I think most people would interpret it as a poorly worded comment about male athletes and female athletes, because very, very few individuals are both male and female. It would be clearer to say something like "The athlete (who is both male and female) who has shown good sportsmanship". – nnnnnn May 19 '16 at 4:06
  • @nnnnnn Quite true. I was trying to match the answer to the question, but your comment is spot on. Thanks. May I incorporate your comment into my answer? – RockPaperLizard May 19 '16 at 4:10
  • Sure. And perhaps you can come up with a better way to word it than I did. – nnnnnn May 19 '16 at 4:20
  • @nnnnnn It took a bit of effort, but I think I incorporated your suggestions successfully. – RockPaperLizard May 19 '16 at 4:49
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I wanted to add to RockPaperLizard's answer but I can't comment yet. If you are referring to a single athlete who is both male and female you would want to include the article "the" to the beginning of the sentence.

  • Good point. I just edited my answer to reflect this. Thanks. – RockPaperLizard May 19 '16 at 3:40

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