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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Can the word `etc.' be used with people?

The Latin expression `et cetera', which is normally abbreviated to `etc.', means `and other things' and `so on'. As writers or speakers, we use it when we don't wish to include everything on a list. For the drawing competition on Sunday, students are expected to bring their own pencil, paper, etc.' In such cases, we expect the reader/ listener to understand that the list is incomplete and that he should supply the missing information on his own. It is very common nowadays to hear people include `etc.' after the names of people as well: `I ran into Ram, Geetha, Thiru, etc. at the club yesterday.' Books on English usage suggest that such sentences are unacceptable. According to scholars, since `et cetera' ends with an `a', the word is neuter in gender; therefore, it can only be used with things and not with people. The Latin expression `et al.', meaning `and others', should be used after the names of people.

*We are expecting Sharukh et al. to be present at the meeting.

(The Hindu, Know your English, 06:11:2007)



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