Pronouns and possessive adjectives can be both pertinent and paramount, particularly when they are used appropriately and precisely. There are many instances, however, when these terms appear incorrectly. Although we may let such misuses slide in common speech, these errors can cut writers’ credibility.
Here is one such example: "their." This word specifically belongs with “them,” “themselves,” and “they.” All of these words are plural.
Unfortunately, these terms are often used incorrectly as singulars. Consider these examples.
Each student must carry their own books.
Anybody can succeed by seizing the opportunities they find.
The winning essay will receive the prize due them.
None of these statements is grammatically correct. Nope, not one. Here are the appropriate ways to restate these sentences.
Each student must carry his or her own books.
Anybody can succeed by seizing the opportunities he or she finds.
The winning essay will receive the prize due it.
The misuse of “them” and “their” appears everywhere.
I’ve seen this wording gone bad in published books, newspapers, magazines, and all over. It makes me cringe.
One might say, “Everyone is entitled to their own pet peeve.” But that’s not right. This misuse has become so common that those who say such things may not even know they’re erring.
Here are two correct alternatives, depending upon whether the subject is plural or singular:
All people are entitled to their own pet peeves.
Everyone is entitled to his or her own pet peeve.
There. That about says it.
Graphic adapted from public domain image