【英語論文の書き方】第48回 単数用法のThey

2017年10月6日 10時00分

(1) The values obtained or the obtained values: Which word order is correct?
(2) Expressions related to success and failure
success と failureの語法について
(3) The different usages of conventional and traditional
Conventionalと traditionalの使い分け。 科学論文に適しているのはどちらでしょうか?


(1) Gender-neutral language: The “singular they”

(2) More on gender-neutral language
性別を表す “Sex”と“Gender”

(3) A few words on the continuous evolution of English expressions


I trust that you are enjoying the summer sunshine, despite the heat and humidity. In this review, we focus on the important topic of gender-neutral language, also referred to as gender-inclusive language. This is based on the modern understanding of gender equality; that is, that men and women are equal and should be treated as such. First we look at the so-called “singular they,” a very useful expression for this purpose. We then turn our attention to the usages of the words sex and gender, and examine a few examples of terms to be avoided and suggested alternatives. Finally, we take a brief look at some other ways in which the English language is continuously evolving.

(1) Gender-neutral language: The “singular they”

Recently, one of our translators asked why I had used their in a certain sentence when each member (possibly male or female) was being referred to. To paraphrase the sentence concerned: “I would like to ask each member to keep this in mind when carrying out their daily tasks.” She wondered why I had used their instead of his or her, or some similar expression.
Up to a few decades ago, before the concept of gender equality became widespread, the masculine pronouns he, him, and his were often used when the gender of the person concerned was not specified. In such cases, women were assumed to be included within the scope of the masculine pronoun. When people began to understand the importance of gender equality in language, the standard style for pronouns changed to expressions such as he or she, he/she, or s/he; him or her; and his or her. However, these expressions tend to be rather awkward, so in recent years the style has changed again.
The modern style is to use they not only in plural situations, but also in singular situations when only one person is being referred to, instead of using he or she and similar expressions. Correspondingly, them is used instead of him or her, and their is used instead of his or her. This usage of they/them/their as singular pronouns is referred to as the singular they.
Here is an overview of how the singular they is used:
he or she, he/she, s/he (personal pronoun, subjective case) → they
him or her (personal pronoun, objective case) → them
his or her (possessive pronoun) → their
It should be noted here that the singular they is still considered to be incorrect by some people, and in highly formal or official texts, such as legal documents, it is still preferable to use the standard expressions he or she, him or her, and his or her. It is also possible to use the rather formal-sounding word one (e.g., “One should submit the necessary documents to the head researcher.”) In most contexts, however, including scientific writing, they/them/their are now considered to be more natural.
Here are some examples of sentences containing the singular they:
  • Each person should have their [instead of his or her] report ready.
  • They [instead of He or she] should not miss the deadline.
  • Otherwise, the class will proceed without them [instead of him or her].
Here is one more example that might surprise you:
  • My friend said that they do not want their private details to be released.
(Here, by using they and their, I can avoid divulging the gender of my friend.)

(2) More on gender-neutral language

What is the difference between the expressions gender and sex? In many cases, these two words can be used interchangeably. However, the word sex is more likely to be used when the focus is on the purely biological difference between male and female, whereas gender, although it also has the same purely biological meaning, places more emphasis on the cultural, psychological, or social characteristics; i.e., masculinity and femininity. If you are unsure as to which term to use, I recommend using gender.
Here are a few examples of what we could call sexist or gender-biased expressions, and suggested alternative expressions:
  • man/mankind → humans/humanity/humankind
  • Dear Sir → Dear Sir/Madam (or the person’s title; e.g., Dear Editor)
  • stewardess/actress/manageress/ → flight attendant/actor/manager
  • chairman → chair or chairperson

(3) A few words on the continuous evolution of English expressions

As new expressions enter the English language, their initial form often changes as time passes. In particular, two-word expressions slowly evolve into a single word, hyphenated expressions lose their hyphen, and sometimes uppercase letters become lowercase. Unfortunately, these changes are often not consistent, as they occur through a process of spontaneous evolution.
For example, the original term Web site is mostly written website nowadays, but most people still write the Web (with an uppercase W) when referring to the World Wide Web. Then there is the common expression e-mail, which is often written email (without the hyphen) now. However, despite the evolution of e-mail to email, you will also see expressions such as e-business and eBusiness. As you can see, there is no real consistency here, beyond a steady movement toward easier and simpler expressions wherever possible.
My advice is to read as many English reports and articles in your field as possible, so as to become familiar with the latest trends in key expressions. If in doubt, you’ll always be on safe ground if you use the expression shown in your English dictionary, as long as your dictionary is a fairly recent one.
I hope that this issue of Quarterly Review has given you some useful advice.
Sincerely yours,
Bob Gavey
For World Translation Services, Inc.





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第2回 「装置」に対する英語表現
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第4回 「~を用いて」の表現:by と with の違い
第5回 技術英文で使われる代名詞のitおよび指示代名詞thisとthatの違いとそれらの使用法
第6回 原因・結果を表す動詞の正しい使い方:その1 原因→結果
第7回 原因・結果を表す動詞の使い方:その2 結果→原因
第8回 受動態の多用と誤用に注意
第9回 top-heavyな英文を避ける
第10回 名詞の修飾語を前から修飾する場合の表現法
第11回 受動態による効果的表現
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第14回 「特別に」を表す英語表現
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第16回 「つまり」「言い換えれば」を表す表現
第17回 寸法や重量を表す表現
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第19回 前置詞 of の使い方: Part 2
第20回 物体や物質を表す英語表現
第21回 句動詞表現より1語動詞での表現へ
第22回 不定詞と動名詞: Part 1
第23回 不定詞と動名詞の使い分け: Part 2

第24回 理由を表す表現


第25回 総称表現 (a, theの使い方を含む)
第26回 「研究開発」を表す英語表現

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第30回  まちがえやすいusing, based onの使い方-分詞構文

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