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Anonymous:
Hi!

Given:

"The springtime of their life is far from over."

and

"The springtime of their lives is far from over."

whichever would you say is the correct sentence? I am aware that since "their" conveys a plural idea, the use of "lives" would appear more logic. But still I am not 100% convinced as "their life" could take the meaning of a group of people sharing the same experience together... Also, for me "their life" tends to sound better.

Can someone help by giving me an official grammar rule which could clear this?

I've done a lot of web search, but there was no straight answer.

Thanks!
If you were speaking of a married couple and their life together, you could say, "their life." If you were talking about persons not sharing the same life together, you would use lives.

The grammatical issue is whether or not you are speaking of a single shared life or the lives of multiple people not sharing the same life. Your analysis of this is correct.
Regular Member813
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Anonymous:
"To talk about several people each doing the same thing, English usually prefers a plural noun for the repeated idea. Plural forms are almost always used in this case if there are possessives." Practical English Usage by Michael Swan, entry #530.1 AND: "After a plural possessive we do not normally use a singular noun in the sense of 'one each'." same, entry #441.4. This called the 'distributive use'. Hope this could help! LOL , Mohsen from Iran Emotion: wink
Anonymous:
Thank you sam1947! Your help is much appreciated! Emotion: big smile
Anonymous:
Hmm... thanks for that 2nd answer... so says the rule but does that mean that "their life" is absolutely wrong and cannot be used at all?
Hello again, I've finally created an account, one thing I should have done from the start. Btw I am the author of this question.

Thanks for the 2nd reply! So the rule points towards the plural but does this mean that the use of "their life" is absolutely grammatically wrong and hence cannot be used at all?
New Member03
No, again, if you are talking about a shared life, where there is more in common than different, then "their life" could be correct. It would be in the context of "their life together". It is unusual, because there aren't many instances that it would apply, but it does happen.

For instance, you might say, "The prisoners described their life in prison as being intolerable." This usage would describe a group of people having the same experience. (Of course, you could avoid the issue by saying, "The prisoners described life in prison as intolerable."

It's similar to the usage wherein you would say, "The committee was unanimous in its vote to retain the current structure." That indicates the committee, although a group of people, is voting in one voice.

Or, you could say, if circumstances warrant, "The committee were at odds over the issue." That would indicate that the members of the committee weren't in agreement.
Proficient Speaker: Users in this role are known to maintain an excellent grasp of the English language. You can only be promoted to this role by the Englishforums team.
Thanks again sam1947!

Got it! Unusual but acceptable, depending on context. [Y] Emotion: clap
Anonymous:
I'm wondering about this situation. Now it's clear. Thank you very much.
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