Pronoun agreement


How could I change the sentence so that I have pronoun agreement?

See example:

Neither therapist blamed the client for their issues, but saw their presenting issues as being related to societal worldviews that tend to marginalize and oppress the client.
asked Nov 12 '13 at 17:01 Christine Fiore New member

1 answer


In your sentence, the plural pronoun "their" is linked to the singular object "client".  But you are trying to be gender neutral and avoid saying "he" or "she".  Although it is becoming a common usage, this sort of pronoun disagreement is discouraged in forma American English -- it is becoming more accepted in Canada.  I personally dislike the usage because, as in your sentence, it can confuse the reader. As written, your sentence implies that the therapists have issues that have not been caused by their mutual client. It does not suggest that the issues belong to the client. Although there are often ways to write around the need to use any pronoun, I don't see a good one here.  You may have use a gender specific pronoun here. Because you seem to be talking about a specific client, it would be considered sexist to use the actual appropriate pronoun for that client.

link answered Nov 12 '13 at 19:12 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

Actually, Jeff, the antecedent is "Neither therapist" and not "client". Although this sentence is not what you would traditionally expect, it is the therapists, and not the client, who are doing with "their" issues in regards to societal views.

Aaron PrejeanNov 13 '13 at 03:52

By the way, your analysis was correct--I just wanted to make sure he understood the correct antecedent. ;)

Aaron PrejeanNov 13 '13 at 03:54

dealing with-

Aaron PrejeanNov 13 '13 at 03:54

You know what Jeff--I can't believe how I misread that sentence. You are right. I thought that the therapists were being ambivalent in regards to societal to trends and attempting not to oppress the client for "their" issues, but you are right... he tried to make 'their' agree with client. Jeff is correct, you need to use "his or her", but even just assigning the gender "his" would be more appropriate for a singular antecedent than trying to use "their" a plural pronoun... + Jeff... I wish I could do it twice for trying to correct you.

Aaron PrejeanNov 13 '13 at 03:58

There were two cases I was to discuss. Each therapist had a client (one male and one female). I was trying to say that neither therapist blamed their client for issues they were experiencing. Is it possible that I could have written the sentence as "Neither therapists blamed his or her client for their current issue, but saw the issues as being related to societal worldviews that marginalize an oppress that specific group".

Christine FioreNov 15 '13 at 00:46

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