George Lucas Educational Foundation

Third Person Singular Indefinite Pronoun

Third Person Singular Indefinite Pronoun

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Here is a little reform that needs to happen. Why haven't English professors and English teachers fixed the "third person singular indefinite pronoun" problem? It is glaringly sexist. Why does every teacher/professor have there own clumsy construct to present? him/her, her/his, her or him, him or her, alway him, always her, alternate her and him, .. same with she/he or he/she (note I put she/he first to be fair). If we can't fix this little problem how do we think we can fix those big problems? Why do some use it as a literary weapon? I always use the plural pronouns for the indefinite third person or try to avoid it by rephrasing my sentence. Awkward. I took a survey, a while back, of people in the English departments of the University of Pittsburgh and the University of California Los Angeles. I asked them what they use. 25 different solutions from 150 different people. No standard except the sexist "he/him/his". Please fix. Thanks.

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Rebecca Alber's picture
Rebecca Alber
Edutopia Consulting Editor

Thanks for sharing this insight, Bob, and your findings.

Sometimes I like to really shake it up, or so I think, by simply using the pronoun "her" and "she" instead of "his" and "he" at all. I think this gives the reader something to think about. I do it often in my blog posts.

Thanks again,
Rebecca Alber

dbixby001's picture
Citizen who understands Education is the most important piece in society.

You say "please fix" as though there is a committee reading this who can make that change with a sweep of a pen. There is no "them". If you want that change, start making it. Come up with words, say se/ser/sis instead of he/him/his and she/her/hers, and begin using it and encouraging others to use it. If you sit around calling for others to make the change, you are wasting everyone's time.

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