Sometimes tutoring makes me die a little on the inside. To illustrate reasons for this horrific assertion, I give you the following conversation that I was part of this morning.
Me: Since you say “student” here, you can’t say “they.” It has to be “he or she.”
Tutee: Ohhhhh, so they have to match.
*Sidenote: this is the exact concept we spent 30minutes discussing Monday
Me: Yes. Also, since the pronoun and the antecedent are both singular now, your verb has to match, so it’s “is” not “are”
Tutee:Ohhhhh, so “he or she are”
Me: No. “He or she is”
Tutee: Ohhhh, ok, so then if it was “student” and singular, then it would be “are”
Me: No. You can’t say “student are” or “he or she are” You would say “student is” or “he or she is” or “studentS are” or “they are”
Tutee: Ohhhhh, ok I get it. So “If a student has the opportunity then they a…”
Me: NO. That’s what you already have written, and it isn’t right. This sentence should say, “If a student has the opportunity then he or she is…”
Tutee: Ohhhhh, so they have to match?
Me: Mnnhmnn, let’s look at the next paragraph.
Maybe I’m just a bad tutor, or maybe people who come to college should have mastered ENGL 0100 skills in about the third grade. This happens to me most days, and sometimes it makes me want to be a teacher for about 3 seconds, but then the logical side of me overtakes the emotional side, and I decide it’s better that I just pray for teachers and count to five and twenty. (Ten points if you get that literary reference). For all I know they’ve got a competition amongst themselves to see who can make me repeat myself the most. You win, M/W 11:00, you win.