Singular vs. Plural

I’ve read in a grammar exercise this sentence: “somebody has left their umbrella behind”. Subject and verb = third person SINGULAR. Possessive adjective = third person PLURAL. Is it right? Why? Carola.

Technically, it is a grammatical error, but this disagreement between singular and plural (another classic example is “everyone thinks that they”) has been in use since Shakespeare’s day and is now part of the language. Indeed, if you say “somebody has left his umbrella behind” it is grammatically correct, but it sounds strange. Indeed if SOMEONE SAYS it, it sounds as if THEY ARE either an old-fashioned, grammar-obsessed English person who NEEDS to get out more, or else a foreign speaker of the language. Also, the use of “he” in this context can sound sexist. What about the other 51 per cent of the population who classify as “she”: don’t they own umbrellas?

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