[Edit: Sorry, 914, that I covered ground you already covered. Your post wasn’t there when I began writing my long-winded post.]
[quote=“Woodchild”]I’ve got a probably stupid question but if you can answer me it’ll be appreciated.
“Everyone loves their mom.”
Is this correct? It sounds right to me but
First, if everyone is singular, shoulden’t it be: “Everyone loves his or her mom.”? But it sounds very wordy to me.
Second, if we say “everyone loves their mom”, shouldn’t it be “their moms”, because their is plural?
I’m all confused now.[/quote]
So am I. It’s a somewhat confusing situation.
It’s a good question, and not stupid at all. You’ve pointed out a problem that has to do with gender issues. As these issues relate to your question, there are pretty good discussions of them (from an American perspective–I don’t know how the rest of the English-speaking world sees it) here and here.
I don’t remember everything I write, but I’m sure I sometimes use "Everyone . . . their . . . " constructions, and similar constructions, so as to avoid gender problems. I think I also use "Everyone . . . his or her . . . " constructions. I may occasionally slip up and write or say, “Everyone . . . his . . . ,” because when I was growing up, that was acceptable.
Somewhere in the above-linked discussions, it’s mentioned that one way to avoid the issue is to use something like, “All people love their moms.” I would add that some writers try to address the problem by using, “Everyone . . . her. . . .”
Hope the above helps.
What’s written below is commonly called TMI, or “Too Much Information,” and it may also be stuff that you and everybody else knows. In any case, feel free to skip it:
The traditional notion of grammar involves prescriptive rules, i.e., consciously made rules. In the past, traditional grammarians might have disagreed with the idea that what they were about was of a prescriptive character. In fact, one of the older (1950) American grammar books still used is even entitled Descriptive English Grammar. I don’t think that many educated English-speakers, on reading that book, would say that it accurately describes English as it is used by most people (to cite one example, the book classifies the word gym as a “barbarism”). I’m not sure the book even accurately describes English as it was used by educated folk in the 1950s.
Linguists try to describe language as it is actually used by people. Moreover, when they use the word rule, they usually mean something unconscious that starts happening in people as they acquire language. For example, when a small child says foots, he or she has acquired the rule of adding the s/z sound to a noun to make a plural (but hasn’t yet acquired the exceptions). It seems unlikely that the child would be able to explain such a rule to anyone. Acquiring it seems to happen naturally, and I guess that’s one of the reasons why linguists usually use the term acquisition instead of learning.
I have a book that I haven’t read from cover to cover, but that I browse and flip through from time to time. It’s called Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar. I like this book because its author seems to adopt a more-or-less descriptive approach (i.e., tries to tell the reader what Chinese is like and why), uses lots of examples, and prescribes lightly by merely trying to point out what might sound unacceptably odd to most Chinese.
I’m a rather old-fashioned person and could remain content if the grammar books stayed traditional. Because I don’t imagine that’s likely to happen, I think the grammar people (in the US, at least) will probably have to begin adopting a method at least somewhat like my red Mandarin grammar (if they haven’t already–I’ve been away for a few years).
Now, what was your question?