Discussion:
Why is "their" used instead of "his"?
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b***@googlemail.com
2019-01-18 22:10:52 UTC
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Here is a sentence from a very interesting book, which i do not quite understand:

The departure of his half brother left Adolf the principal butt of their father's frustrations.

Thanks in advance for any help!
Ken Blake
2019-01-18 22:17:37 UTC
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The departure of his half brother left Adolf the principal butt of their father's frustrations.
Thanks in advance for any help!
"Their" refers to Adolf and his half brother. His father was
frustrated with both of them.
b***@googlemail.com
2019-01-18 22:25:55 UTC
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Thank you, Ken.
Now it is clear!
I got my wires crossed.
Ken Blake
2019-01-18 23:07:59 UTC
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Thank you, Ken.
Now it is clear!
I got my wires crossed.
You're welcome. Glad to help.
CDB
2019-01-19 07:20:06 UTC
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Post by b***@googlemail.com
The departure of his half brother left Adolf the principal butt of
their father's frustrations.
Thanks in advance for any help!
Hitler's half-brother (call him "Junior") has just been mentioned. His
father and little Adolph's are the same delightful man. Half the
butts* get double the whippings.

*But you do know that in the context of your example, the word means
"target".
s***@gowanhill.com
2019-01-19 12:42:51 UTC
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Post by b***@googlemail.com
The departure of his half brother left Adolf the principal butt of
their father's frustrations.
Because Adolf and his half-brother have the same father but different mothers.

If Adolf and his half-brother had different fathers but the same mother, it would be "his father's frustrations" or "his stepfather's frustrations".

Owain
b***@aol.com
2019-01-19 18:51:40 UTC
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Post by b***@googlemail.com
The departure of his half brother left Adolf the principal butt of their father's frustrations.
Thanks in advance for any help!
As others have said, "their father" refers to Adolph and his half-brother's
father, but the construction is awkward, as "their" is inconsistent with
the preceding syntax. More coherent would have been e.g. "The departure of
his half brother left Adolf the principal butt for the frustrations of the
two lads' father", but then the sentence is a bit stodgy - hence maybe the
choice of "their" as a lesser evil.
Peter T. Daniels
2019-01-19 21:26:34 UTC
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Post by b***@aol.com
Post by b***@googlemail.com
The departure of his half brother left Adolf the principal butt of their father's frustrations.
Thanks in advance for any help!
As others have said, "their father" refers to Adolph and his half-brother's
father, but the construction is awkward, as "their" is inconsistent with
the preceding syntax.
No, it's perfectly clear.
Post by b***@aol.com
More coherent would have been e.g. "The departure of
his half brother left Adolf the principal butt for the frustrations of the
two lads' father",
That's just ridiculous.
Post by b***@aol.com
but then the sentence is a bit stodgy - hence maybe the
choice of "their" as a lesser evil.
Not the slightest bit evil. Two half-brothers have one father.
b***@aol.com
2019-01-20 06:51:58 UTC
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Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by b***@aol.com
Post by b***@googlemail.com
The departure of his half brother left Adolf the principal butt of their father's frustrations.
Thanks in advance for any help!
As others have said, "their father" refers to Adolph and his half-brother's
father, but the construction is awkward, as "their" is inconsistent with
the preceding syntax.
No, it's perfectly clear.
Post by b***@aol.com
More coherent would have been e.g. "The departure of
his half brother left Adolf the principal butt for the frustrations of the
two lads' father",
That's just ridiculous.
Post by b***@aol.com
but then the sentence is a bit stodgy - hence maybe the
choice of "their" as a lesser evil.
Not the slightest bit evil. Two half-brothers have one father.
Duh! Once again, you're missing the point.
Mark Brader
2019-01-20 01:43:37 UTC
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Post by b***@googlemail.com
The departure of his half brother left Adolf the principal butt of
their father's frustrations.
As others have said, "their father" refers to Adolph and his half-brother's
father, but the construction is awkward, as "their" is inconsistent with
the preceding syntax.
Nonsense.
--
Mark Brader, Toronto | "I shot a query into the net.
***@vex.net | I haven't got an answer yet..." --Ed Nather
Peter Moylan
2019-01-21 00:52:05 UTC
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Post by b***@googlemail.com
The departure of his half brother left Adolf the principal butt of
their father's frustrations.
Thanks in advance for any help!
As others have said, "their father" refers to Adolph and his
half-brother's father, but the construction is awkward, as "their" is
inconsistent with the preceding syntax. More coherent would have been
e.g. "The departure of his half brother left Adolf the principal butt
for the frustrations of the two lads' father", but then the sentence
is a bit stodgy - hence maybe the choice of "their" as a lesser
evil.
A much lesser evil, because there is nothing wrong with "their" in the
original sentence.
--
Peter Moylan http://www.pmoylan.org
Newcastle, NSW, Australia
b***@aol.com
2019-01-21 06:40:58 UTC
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Post by Peter Moylan
Post by b***@aol.com
Post by b***@googlemail.com
The departure of his half brother left Adolf the principal butt of
their father's frustrations.
Thanks in advance for any help!
As others have said, "their father" refers to Adolph and his
half-brother's father, but the construction is awkward, as "their" is
inconsistent with the preceding syntax. More coherent would have been
e.g. "The departure of his half brother left Adolf the principal butt
for the frustrations of the two lads' father", but then the sentence
is a bit stodgy - hence maybe the choice of "their" as a lesser
evil.
A much lesser evil, because there is nothing wrong with "their" in the
original sentence.
Yes, there is, as Adolph and his half brother are not mentioned
"collectively" in the sentence to justify a plural pronoun, and it
feels as though "their" could refer to two other people. The OP
couldn't make sense of the sentence, BTW, which shows that it's not
really "perfectly clear" and the reader is madeto do some deduction
to understand whom "their" refers to rather than just rely on a
coherent syntax.

Can you really not see a difference between "their" as oddly used in
the sentence discussed and regularly used for instance in "Adolf"
and his half brother were the principal butt of their father's
frustrations."?
Post by Peter Moylan
--
Peter Moylan http://www.pmoylan.org
Newcastle, NSW, Australia
CDB
2019-01-21 15:01:11 UTC
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Post by b***@aol.com
Post by Peter Moylan
Post by b***@aol.com
Post by b***@googlemail.com
The departure of his half brother left Adolf the principal
butt of their father's frustrations.
Thanks in advance for any help!
As others have said, "their father" refers to Adolph and his
half-brother's father, but the construction is awkward, as
"their" is inconsistent with the preceding syntax. More coherent
would have been e.g. "The departure of his half brother left
Adolf the principal butt for the frustrations of the two lads'
father", but then the sentence is a bit stodgy - hence maybe the
choice of "their" as a lesser evil.
A much lesser evil, because there is nothing wrong with "their" in
the original sentence.
Yes, there is, as Adolph and his half brother are not mentioned
"collectively" in the sentence to justify a plural pronoun, and it
feels as though "their" could refer to two other people. The OP
couldn't make sense of the sentence, BTW, which shows that it's not
really "perfectly clear" and the reader is madeto do some deduction
to understand whom "their" refers to rather than just rely on a
coherent syntax.
The OP's difficulties with the usage are those of a non-native, as
yours are.
Post by b***@aol.com
Can you really not see a difference between "their" as oddly used in
the sentence discussed and regularly used for instance in "Adolf"
and his half brother were the principal butt of their father's
frustrations."?
The difference is not that one is correct and the other not. One is
more precisdely expressed than the other, but obsessive precision often
gives way to ease of expression.
b***@aol.com
2019-01-21 18:18:50 UTC
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Post by CDB
Post by b***@aol.com
Post by Peter Moylan
Post by b***@aol.com
Post by b***@googlemail.com
The departure of his half brother left Adolf the principal
butt of their father's frustrations.
Thanks in advance for any help!
As others have said, "their father" refers to Adolph and his
half-brother's father, but the construction is awkward, as
"their" is inconsistent with the preceding syntax. More coherent
would have been e.g. "The departure of his half brother left
Adolf the principal butt for the frustrations of the two lads'
father", but then the sentence is a bit stodgy - hence maybe the
choice of "their" as a lesser evil.
A much lesser evil, because there is nothing wrong with "their" in
the original sentence.
Yes, there is, as Adolph and his half brother are not mentioned
"collectively" in the sentence to justify a plural pronoun, and it
feels as though "their" could refer to two other people. The OP
couldn't make sense of the sentence, BTW, which shows that it's not
really "perfectly clear" and the reader is madeto do some deduction
to understand whom "their" refers to rather than just rely on a
coherent syntax.
The OP's difficulties with the usage are those of a non-native, as
yours are.
I've had no difficulties understanding what that sentence meant. What I
pointed out as odd is not specific to English and the exact same sloppy
wording can be (and is) used in French.
Post by CDB
Post by b***@aol.com
Can you really not see a difference between "their" as oddly used in
the sentence discussed and regularly used for instance in "Adolf"
and his half brother were the principal butt of their father's
frustrations."?
The difference is not that one is correct and the other not. One is
more precisdely expressed than the other, but obsessive precision often
gives way to ease of expression.
What I said in the first place: a lesser evil, i.e. brevity and imprecision
vs stodginess and precision - with the challenge being to strike the
right trade-off.
Peter T. Daniels
2019-01-21 21:03:38 UTC
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Post by b***@aol.com
Post by CDB
Post by b***@aol.com
Post by Peter Moylan
Post by b***@aol.com
Post by b***@googlemail.com
Here is a sentence from a very interesting book, which i do not
The departure of his half brother left Adolf the principal
butt of their father's frustrations.
Thanks in advance for any help!
As others have said, "their father" refers to Adolph and his
half-brother's father, but the construction is awkward, as
"their" is inconsistent with the preceding syntax. More coherent
would have been e.g. "The departure of his half brother left
Adolf the principal butt for the frustrations of the two lads'
father", but then the sentence is a bit stodgy - hence maybe the
choice of "their" as a lesser evil.
A much lesser evil, because there is nothing wrong with "their" in
the original sentence.
Yes, there is, as Adolph and his half brother are not mentioned
"collectively" in the sentence to justify a plural pronoun, and it
feels as though "their" could refer to two other people. The OP
couldn't make sense of the sentence, BTW, which shows that it's not
really "perfectly clear" and the reader is madeto do some deduction
to understand whom "their" refers to rather than just rely on a
coherent syntax.
The OP's difficulties with the usage are those of a non-native, as
yours are.
I've had no difficulties understanding what that sentence meant. What I
pointed out as odd is not specific to English and the exact same sloppy
wording can be (and is) used in French.
There is nothing "sloppy" about the wording in English. Whether it is
"sloppy" in French is of no relevance whatsoever to English.
b***@aol.com
2019-01-22 01:27:23 UTC
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Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by b***@aol.com
Post by CDB
Post by b***@aol.com
Post by Peter Moylan
Post by b***@aol.com
Post by b***@googlemail.com
Here is a sentence from a very interesting book, which i do not
The departure of his half brother left Adolf the principal
butt of their father's frustrations.
Thanks in advance for any help!
As others have said, "their father" refers to Adolph and his
half-brother's father, but the construction is awkward, as
"their" is inconsistent with the preceding syntax. More coherent
would have been e.g. "The departure of his half brother left
Adolf the principal butt for the frustrations of the two lads'
father", but then the sentence is a bit stodgy - hence maybe the
choice of "their" as a lesser evil.
A much lesser evil, because there is nothing wrong with "their" in
the original sentence.
Yes, there is, as Adolph and his half brother are not mentioned
"collectively" in the sentence to justify a plural pronoun, and it
feels as though "their" could refer to two other people. The OP
couldn't make sense of the sentence, BTW, which shows that it's not
really "perfectly clear" and the reader is madeto do some deduction
to understand whom "their" refers to rather than just rely on a
coherent syntax.
The OP's difficulties with the usage are those of a non-native, as
yours are.
I've had no difficulties understanding what that sentence meant. What I
pointed out as odd is not specific to English and the exact same sloppy
wording can be (and is) used in French.
There is nothing "sloppy" about the wording in English. Whether it is
"sloppy" in French is of no relevance whatsoever to English.
Wrong! The basics of syntax, such as what antecedent an anaphorical
pronoun is suppposed to have in a given sentence, are obviously the
same.
Peter Moylan
2019-01-22 04:57:38 UTC
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Post by b***@aol.com
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by b***@aol.com
Post by CDB
Post by b***@aol.com
Post by Peter Moylan
Post by b***@aol.com
Post by b***@googlemail.com
Here is a sentence from a very interesting book, which
The departure of his half brother left Adolf the
principal butt of their father's frustrations.
Thanks in advance for any help!
As others have said, "their father" refers to Adolph and
his half-brother's father, but the construction is
awkward, as "their" is inconsistent with the preceding
syntax. More coherent would have been e.g. "The departure
of his half brother left Adolf the principal butt for the
frustrations of the two lads' father", but then the
sentence is a bit stodgy - hence maybe the choice of
"their" as a lesser evil.
A much lesser evil, because there is nothing wrong with
"their" in the original sentence.
Yes, there is, as Adolph and his half brother are not
mentioned "collectively" in the sentence to justify a plural
pronoun, and it feels as though "their" could refer to two
other people. The OP couldn't make sense of the sentence,
BTW, which shows that it's not really "perfectly clear" and
the reader is madeto do some deduction to understand whom
"their" refers to rather than just rely on a coherent
syntax.
The OP's difficulties with the usage are those of a non-native,
as yours are.
I've had no difficulties understanding what that sentence meant.
What I pointed out as odd is not specific to English and the
exact same sloppy wording can be (and is) used in French.
There is nothing "sloppy" about the wording in English. Whether it
is "sloppy" in French is of no relevance whatsoever to English.
Wrong! The basics of syntax, such as what antecedent an anaphorical
pronoun is suppposed to have in a given sentence, are obviously the
same.
What is different is the overall language background: things like how
often such a construct is used, its frequency of use by respected
writers, and so on. Such details obviously differ between languages.

As far as I can recall, every native speaker of English in this thread
found the subject sentence perfectly normal, respectable, and easy to
understand. You're the only one to call it sloppy. Whether it is
difficult for non-native speakers is a separate question that does not
come into a sloppiness judgement.
--
Peter Moylan http://www.pmoylan.org
Newcastle, NSW, Australia
Paul Carmichael
2019-01-21 18:25:19 UTC
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The departure of his half brother left Adolf the principal butt of their father's frustrations.
Thanks in advance for any help!
As others have said, "their father" refers to Adolph and his half-brother's
father
Is "(Adolf and his half-brother)" a single unit requiring just the final possessive s?

Could be construed as (Adolf) and (his half-brother's father), no?
--
Paul.

https://paulc.es/
https://asetrad.org
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