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The text below is from Swan's practical English Usage.

"When possessives and pronouns refer back to everybody/everyone, they can usually be either singular (more formal) or plural (less formal). Sometimes only a plural word makes sense. Compare:
Has everybody got his or her ticket? (more formal)
Has everybody got their tickets? (less formal)
When everybody had finished eating, the waiters took away their plates. (Not ....his or her plate)"

Can you please explain how we should know when only plural word makes sense?

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Tara2Can you please explain how we should know when only the plural word makes sense?

From the context.

When everybody had finished eating, the waiters took away their plates.

More than one person was eating and there were many plates for the waiters to take.


Has everybody got his or her ticket?

It is like asking each person in turn: Have you got your ticket? One person/one ticket.

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Tara2Has everybody got his or her ticket? (more formal)
Has everybody got their tickets? (less formal)
When everybody had finished eating, the waiters took away their plates. (Not ....his or her plate)"

To me, the explanation of this example does not seem immediately obvious.

1. Has everybody finished eating his or her meal? OK (more formal)
2. When everybody had finished eating, the waiters took away his or her plate. NO

The first sentence seems to be perceived as describing lots of individual situations, while the second seems to be perceived as describing a collective situation.

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Tara2Has everybody got his or her ticket? (more formal)
Has everybody got their tickets? (less formal)
When everybody had finished eating, the waiters took away their plates. (Not ....his or her plate)"

It seems to me that these examples are not the clearest of what (I think) they're trying to say (maybe).

For the ticket example, they're imagining a situation where each person gets only one ticket.
For the plate example, they're imagining a situation where each person used more than one plate.

(They say "Not his or her plate", as if this phrasing would limit each person to one plate. But in fact, why not "his or her plates"? No mention is made of that possibility.)

Frankly, I can't say for certain what point they're trying to make. Emotion: sad

* * *

OK. I've thought about this a little more.

I think it's that with tickets, each person is treated separately. Each person is admitted or not depending on the possession of a ticket.
On the other hand, a meal is shared communally. All the people at the table are thought of together as "having plates".
Even this is not completely satisfying as an explanation, but it may be closer to what the author was thinking.

CJ

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Many thanks AS for the excellent explanation!!!

Many thanks GPY for the excellent explanation!!!

Tara2

Many thanks GPY for the excellent explanation!!!

Hmm, well, I'm not sure it is such a great explanation(!), since I do not really understand why there should be that difference just by changing from "Has everybody?" to "When everybody ...".

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 CalifJim's reply was promoted to an answer.
GPYHmm, well, I'm not sure it is such a great explanation(!), since I do not really understand why there should be that difference just by changing from "Has everybody?" to "When everybody ...".

I really thought I understand something. But now that you say that I think I understand nothing. Emotion: sad

Many thanks again!!!

Many thanks CJ!!!

Sorry CJ, is there a way to know when only a plural pronoun is correct?

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