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ESL forum > Teaching material > Indefinite Compounds    

Indefinite Compounds


Indefinite Compounds
Good night everyone, I need to ask you a question.
Last night I was teaching indefinite compounds ( anywhere, somebody, somewhere, no one, nobody, etc ) but my adults don�t seem to have it very clear - they don�t get the idea -
Where can I get sth�good from where to explain it? Any ideas? Material?

Thanks in advance and have a nice weekend

4 Sep 2010      


Maybe this will be useful?

4 Sep 2010     


great! Thank you! 

4 Sep 2010     


Oh, dear! I followed Errie �s link and read at the bottom of the page that this example sentence
Is everyone happy with their gift? 
is incorrect. Too bad, because I clearly remember being taught many years ago that one can avoid using his, which is considered discriminatory, in sentences like this by replacing it with the plural possessive pronoun. And of course I �ve used this form more than often ever since.... So often that it now sounds very natural!

I �d appreciate the native speakers � comments on this one! 

PS- not sure how i managed to get the white background in this post, but i can�t remove it Tongue

4 Sep 2010     

United States

This is a oft-debated topic in English and apparently has been an issue for many years (centuries?).

My personal experience: Living languages change over time and this is an example. When I was younger, the "singular they" (their, etc.) was taught in school (and generally considered) as incorrect. With increasing emphasis on gender neutral language in recent years, it �s becoming more and more common in both speech and writing. I hear it, read it, and use it myself with some regularity.

If you do a check in a corpus (e.g. http://corpus.byu.edu/coca/ ), you can see its use is fairly widespread.

If you search the Internet for "gender neutral" or "gender inclusive" articles, you get a bunch of them, e.g. http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/intranet/committees/FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/inclusiv.htm  Some espouse its use and others decry it.

Wikipedia has a brief summary in one article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender-neutral_pronoun#Modern_English
Since at least the 15th century, "they" (though still used with verbs conjugated in the plural, not the singular), "them", "themself", "themselves", and "their" have been used, in an increasingly more accepted fashion, as singular pronouns. This usage of the word "they" is often thus called the singular "they". The singular "they" is widely used and accepted in Britain, Australia, and North America in conversation and, often, in at least informal writing as well. It is important to note that this is not recognized by the SATs and other standardized tests.
  • I say to each person in this room: may they enjoy themselves tonight!
  • Anyone who arrives at the door can let themself in using this key.
  • Eche of theym sholde ... make theymselfe redy. � Caxton, Sonnes of Aymon (c. 1489)
There is a more complete discussion at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they

Sorry, but it �s one of those questions that doesn �t have a simple "yes" or "no" answer. Hope this is helpful. I�m interested in responses from other native speakers.


4 Sep 2010     


Personally I always use "they" or "their"
In my university studies I used s/he but that is a written solution.
Too right. Language constantly changes and it is very difficult to be black & white about rules.
Cheers Joy

4 Sep 2010     


If speaking I would use they or their.
I would avoid it when writing anything formal; I �d use he/she or rephrase the sentence.

4 Sep 2010