Proofreading checklist for any essay.
An acronym for ACRONYM
H.W. Fowler on writing clearly and simply.
chattyclarissa asked: Hi! I enjoy your blog! I have a question for you. Which of the following is correct: "They balance a basket on their heads" or "They balance a basket on their head"?? And can you please explain the correct answer? Thank you!!
Great question. And the problem is there’s no easy way to look it up online.
The answer is that either way is fine grammatically, but neither is without problems and potential misunderstanding.
If you say “their head” it can sound like the whole group has a single head.
But if you say “their heads” it can sound like each of them has more than one head.
The truth is, people will understand what you mean either way. You can just go with the one that feels best to you.
Of course, if you can find a different way of expressing this that avoids this singular/plural problem, do it. Maybe “Each balances a basket on his head”?
P.S. I’ve thought about this some more and I think I’d recommend either of the following:
“They balance baskets on their heads.” or
“Each balances a basket on his head.”
If you don’t like using the masculine “his” universally, you can replace it with “his or her” or even “their.”
I just thought that “a basket on their head/s” might sound like there’s one large basket balanced atop a group of heads.