Singular they

Singular they

"Singular" "they" is a popular, non-technical expression for uses of the pronoun "they" (and its inflected forms) when plurality is not required by the context. The "Chicago Manual of Style" notes: "On the one hand, it is unacceptable to a great many reasonable readers to use the generic masculine pronoun ('he' in reference to no one in particular). On the other hand, it is unacceptable to a great many readers either to resort to nontraditional gimmicks to avoid the generic masculine (by using 'he/she' or 's/he.' for example) or to use 'they' as a kind of singular pronoun." [Chicago Manual of Style, p. 233.]

"Singular" "they" does, in fact, remain morphologically and syntactically plural (it still takes plural forms of verbs). However, it is often semantically indeterminate in number. More technically, these uses can be described as generic or epicene "they".


Generic "they" has indeterminate number:

* There's not a man I meet but doth salute me / As if I were their well-acquainted friend — Shakespeare, "The Comedy of Errors", Act IV, Scene 3 (1594)

Epicene "they" has indeterminate gender:
*"It can't be true what the girls at the Rectory said, that her mother was an opera-dancer—":"A person can’t help their birth," Rosalind replied. — Thackeray, "Vanity Fair" (1848)

In neither case is "singular" "they" unambiguously a semantic or morpho-syntactic singular. What it actually agrees with is the plurality implicit in the indeterminacy of generic antecedents.

This is explained by David Lewis' analysis of an aspect of the logic of the semantics of natural language,Lewis notes that adverbs of quantification operate beyond moments to periods, cases and variables generally, sometimes unrestricted, other times restricted by conditionals; and he demonstrates how, often, both adverbs and conditionals may not be "explicitly" present in natural language, but may be reconstituted in "canonical form", with isomorphic truth-functionality, hence (logically) identical interpretation.
David Lewis, [ 'Adverbs of Quantification',] in EL Keenan (ed.), "Formal Semantics of Natural Language", (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), pp. 3-15. Reprinted as chapter 7 in Paul Portner and Barbara H. Partee (eds), "Formal Semantics: The Essential Readings", (Blackwell, 2002).] now called "quantificational variability effect" (QVE). [Berman is usually cited, see the following.
*"The Semantics of Open Sentences". PhD thesis. University of Massachusetts Amherst, 1991.
*'An Analysis of Quantifier Variability in Indirect Questions'. "MIT Working Papers in Linguistics" 11. Edited by Phil Branigan and others. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989. Pages 1–16.
*'Situation-Based Semantics for Adverbs of Quantification'. In J. Blevins and Anne Vainikka (eds). "University of Massachusetts Occasional Papers" 12. Graduate Linguistic Student Association, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 1987.
] Broader research in the area is still active, under the name "donkey pronouns". [These are special because they are "bound" in semantics but not syntax. The name is taken from examples in
Peter Thomas Geach, "Reference and Generality: An Examination of Some Medieval and Modern Theories", (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1962).

In this kind of analysis, "singular" "they" in English is typically an example of a semantically bound variable,
Willard Van Orman Quine, [ 'Variables Explained Away',] "Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society" 104 (1960): 343-347.] rather than a simple referential pronoun. [Or "pronoun of laziness". Geach, work cited.] It is most clearly evident in the special case of distributive constructions, [Since these make the quantification explicit.] where the preference many languages show for singular pronouns probably gives rise to the "singular" in "singular" "they". [For, specifically, donkey anaphora analogues in languages other than English, see publications by Adrian Brasoveanu.]

Steven Pinker proposes the word "they" be considered to be a pair of "homonyms" — two different words with the same spelling and sound.Steven Pinker, "The Language Instinct", 1994. [ Quoted online.] ]

This would be analogous to a language like Basque, which uses the word "nork" both as an indeterminate pronoun meaning "who" and also as a marker in distributive constructions.

Basque has two ways of expressing universal distributive quantifications: (i) lexically, through the quantifier "bakoitz" 'each'; (ii) configurationally, through the construction exemplified in (1).In (1), an indeterminate pronoun takes on a universal distributive value. Such a value is not a lexical property of the relevant indeterminate pronouns. [ [ Ricardo Etxepare,] [ 'Indeterminate pronouns and universal quantification in Basque',] ("University of California, Los Angeles, Semantics and Linguistic Theory Conference" 15, unpublished paper, 2005).]

Basque is far from the only example of this. Kuroda considers it typical of East Asian languages, Japanese and Korean in particular. [S.-Y. Kuroda, "An Integrated Theory of Linguistic Description", (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1969). ] Yet other languages have even more particular ways of expressing distribution and quantification. Sumerian, structurally similar to Basque, uses a nominal suffix, "dedli", to indicate "each individual". [Dietz Otto Edzard, "Hand buch der Orientalistik", (Leiden: Brill, 2003).]

Technical terms


Distributive constructions are those which apply a single idea to all entities of a group, hence involving both singular and plural ideas. They are typically marked in English by words like "each" and "every". The simplest examples are applied to groups of two, and use words like "either" and "or". Thorough analysis of distribution requires treatment of negation. [MA Just and PA Carpenter, 'Comprehension of Negation with Quantification', "Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior" 10 (1971): 244–253.] Hence, the Shakespeare quote above is semantically distributive, because "there's not a man" is logically equivalent to "every man does not". Since distributive constructions apply an idea relevant to each individual in the group, rather than to the group as a whole, they are most often conceived of as singular, and singular pronouns are used.
*England expects that every man will do his duty. — Nelson
*Every dog hath his day.:— John Ray, "A Collection of English Proverbs", 1670:originally from Plutarch, "Moralia", c. 95 AD, regarding the death of EuripidesHowever, English is typical of many languages that show ambivalence in this regard. Because distribution also requires a group with more than one member, plural forms are sometimes used. The Shakespeare quote is probably an example of such a usage. The alternative would be that he intended epicene "they" in agreement with generic "man", including women.

Many clear examples of the plural being used in other languages, and coming into English by translation, are found in the King James Version of the Bible, which attempted very literal translation. The fact that singular forms are, nonetheless, more natural in distributive constructions is inadvertently demonstrated by a website that, not having researched the original languages, unadvisedly assumed a singular interpretation of "they" in translations of plurals in the original. [ "Singular they": God said it, I believe it, that settles it,] "Language Log" 13 September, 2006.]

English is typical of many languages because it forms distributives with pronouns and marks for singular and plural. These languages demonstrate a preference for singular pronouns but attest plurals in a substantial minority of cases. Both forms being comprehensible to native speakers, usage depends on context, clarity, style and logic (for logic, see below).

Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style" notes both uses.cquote|A common inaccuracy is the use of the plural pronoun when the antecedent is a distributive expression such as "each", "each one", "everybody", "every one", "many a man", which, though implying more than one person, requires the pronoun to be in the singular. Similar to this, but with even less justification, is the use of the plural pronoun with the antecedent "anybody", "any one", "somebody", "some one", the intention being either to avoid the awkward "he or she", or to avoid committing oneself to either. Some bashful speakers even say, "A friend of mine told me that they" ..."Strunk and White, "The Elements of Style", revised 1959, reprinted 1999.] This is a semantic assessment (note the words "inaccuracy", "implying", "requires", "justification" and "intention"),rather than a syntactic linguistic prescription (as some have, rather loosely, claimed).Prescriptions of taste are not true or false, so they can't be proved right or wrong; ["They may or may not conform to standards of usage or taste. But they are not true or false." Howard K. Wettstein, "The Magic Prism: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language", (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).] however, claims regarding accuracy can be demonstrated to be true or false. [For "accuracy" implying "true" or "false", see Accuracy and precision for a common example of usage.] Strunk and White have been proven wrong on this point by logical analysis of quantification in natural language (like Pinker following Lewis and others above) — distributive expressions are neither exclusively singular or plural, they are indeterminate in number.


The simplest examples of quantification are existential and universal statements, which are marked in English by phrases like "there is" or words like "all". However, there are different types of quantification marked by other words like "many", "more" and "most". Quantification is also apparent in language referring to time, marked by words like "always", "often", "sometimes", "once" or "never".Apart from the quantifiers which refer to a unique singularity, like "there is" and "once", they necessarily imply a distributive concept. Even in the case of "there is" and "once", logical analysis views many of these as distributive statements equivalent to, "out of all cases there is at least one". Hence literature seeking to explain quantification in natural language often refers to distributive constructions, and "vice versa".


The term "variable" arises due to the interest mathematicians, logicians, philosophers of language, theoretical linguists and computer language designers have in formal language representations of natural language. [Notably Bertrand Arthur William Russell and Richard Merett Montague.] In their metalanguage, quantifiers are applied over the "domain" (or "restriction") of a variable. Where natural language speakers use words or clitics to signal generalizations, language analysts define what they call "variables" that range over any element of the set of members of a group — the domain. Consider the examples of
*natural language — "Every good boy deserves fruit"; and
*formal language — forall bin B, b.G Rightarrow b.Df.The symbol, b, is used to represent a variable that can refer to any boy (the elements of the set of all boys, B). The upside-down "A" is a standard symbol for the universal quantifier — "for all", "for each" or "for every" in natural language. In predicate logic, the truth-value of the proposition expressed above in a formal language does not depend on the particular value of the variable, b. This matches our natural language understanding. Whether or not "every good boy deserves fruit" doesn't depend on any particular boy. Because the truth-value of the proposition doesn't depend on the value of the variable, the variable is called "bound". If, however, there is no quantifier, the variable is called "free", and the truth value of the proposition depends on the value of the variable. This also matches natural language. Whether Adam is bad or deserves fruit depends on Adam.Pinker argues that usage of "singular" "they" in English cannot be condemned on grammatical grounds, because it is probably better understood as a linguistic marker of a bound variable rather than as a pronoun with a referent. "On logical grounds, then, variables are not the same thing as the more familiar 'referential' pronouns that trigger number agreement." He gives the following example.

quote|"Everyone returned to their seats" means 'For all X, X returned to X's seat.' The 'X' does not refer to any particular person or group of people. ... The "their" there ... refers neither to one thing nor to many things; it does not refer at all.

"Everyone" and "they" are not an 'antecedent' and a 'pronoun' .... They are a 'quantifier' and a 'bound variable,' a different logical relationship.

Pinker's example demonstrates the acceptability of plural forms in distributive constructions. However, additional issues are raised by the attested usage of the logically equivalent alternative constructions of this distributive expression, using
*generic "they" — "Everyone" returned to "their" seat, or
*generic "he" — "Everyone" returned to "his" seat.


Generic "he"

Until the late twentieth century, generic use of the pronoun "he" was preferred (but not required) in such constructions, as described in contemporary grammar books. For example, a grammar contemporary with the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary notes:cquote|410. ... when the antecedent includes both masculine and feminine, or is a distributive word, taking in each of many persons,—the preferred method is to put the pronoun following in the masculine singular; if the antecedent is neuter, preceded by a distributive, the pronoun will be neuter singular. [
W. M. Baskervill and J. W. Sewell, [ "An English Grammar"] , 1896.

Examples of generic "he"

*Every person who turns this page has his own little diary. — Thackeray
*Suppose the life and fortune of every one of us would depend on his winning or losing a game of chess. — Thomas Huxley, 'A Liberal Education' (1868)
*If any one did not know it, it was his own fault. — George Washington Cable, "Old Creole Days" (1879)
*Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country. — "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" (1948)
*It wouldn’t be as if the lone astronaut would be completely by himself. — Nancy Atkinson, [ 'A One Way One Person Mission to Mars'] (4 March 2008)Generic "he" is still current English usage, though the gender neutral language movement discourages this use.

Generic "they"

Generic "he" was a preference in usage, not a binding grammatical "rule", as Thackeray's use of both forms demonstrates. "The alternative to the masculine generic with the longest and most distinguished history in English is the third-person plural pronoun. Recognized writers have used "they", "them", "themselves", and "their" to refer to singular nouns such as "one", "a person", "an individual", and "each" since the 1300s." [ [ 'They with Singular Antecedent',] "American Heritage Book of English Usage: A Practical and Authoritative Guide to Contemporary English", 1996.]

Examples of generic "they"

*"Eche of theym" sholde ... make "theymselfe" redy. — Caxton
*Arise; "one" knocks. / ... / Hark, how "they" knock! — Shakespeare, "Romeo and Juliet"
*'Tis meet that some more audience than "a mother", since nature makes "them" partial, should o'erhear the speech. — Shakespeare, "Hamlet"
*I would have "everybody" marry if "they" can do it properly. — Austen, "Mansfield Park" (1814)
*That's always your way, Maim—always sailing in to help "somebody" before "they're" hurt. — Mark Twain, "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (1884)
*Caesar: "No, Cleopatra. "No man" goes to battle to be killed." / Cleopatra: "But "they" do get killed". — Shaw, "Caesar and Cleopatra" (1901)

Of the example from Shaw, the "Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage" (1989) states:"It would be a violation of English idiom to use a singular pronoun in [that] sentence (But he does get killed) on the assumption that because "no man" is singular in form and governs a singular verb, it must take a singular pronoun in reference. Notional agreement is in control, and its dictates must be followed." [The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage (1989), p. 903.] In other words, "no man" is syntactically singular, demonstrated by taking the singular form "goes"; however, it is semantically plural, hence idiomatically requiring generic or plural ("not" singular) "they".

A majority of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language usage panel "of some 200 distinguished educators, writers, and public speakers" [ [ Usage Panel] ] "reject the use of "they" with singular antecedents" inasmuch as 82 percent of the panelists found the sentence "The typical student in the program takes about six years to complete their course work" to be unacceptable. [ [ 'They'] "The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language", Fourth edition, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000).]

Study has also shown that reading time of "they" increases significantly when used with a gender-determinate antecedent, suggesting that such use can confuse. [J. Foertsch and MA Gernsbacher, [ 'In Search of Gender Neutrality: Is Singular They a Cognitively Efficient Substitute for Generic He?'] , "Psychological Science" 8 (1997): 106–111.]

Both generic "he" and generic "they" have long histories of use, and both are still used. However, both are also systematically avoided by particular groups. Style guides that avoid expressing a preference for either approach recommend recasting generic expressions as plurals to avoid the criticisms of either party.

Irrespective of the debate, when used, "singular" "they" can be seen to have an implication of indefinite reference (indefinite number or indefinite gender). It is most commonly used with indefinite referents of a distributive nature such as "someone", "anyone", "everyone", and "no one". Such references are not to one particular person but to a large group taken one at a time, causing influence from the implied plural. This is also evident in the case of some singular collective nouns, as in "The "police" are on their way." This phenomenon is somewhat less extensive in North American than in British and similar varieties of English, in which one might also hear "Chelsea" have defeated Liverpool" or "The "Government" are of the view that...." or "The "audience" were laughing." Use of singular or plural forms in such cases is a matter of style not syntax, with regional variation in frequency.

Grammatical analysis

According to the traditional analysis, [One that still has many adherents among linguists; for example Huddleston and Pullum, "Student's Introduction." (2005)] English personal pronouns are typically used to refer back, or forward within a sentence, to a noun phrase (which may be a simple noun). (According to a newer analysis, [For example, Andrew Radford, "Minimalist Syntax: Exploring the Structure of English" (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004; ISBN 0-521-54274-X).] to a determiner phrase, which may be a simple determiner.)

* "All good students" do their homework.Generic (indeterminate number)
* "A good student" is known for doing his homework OR
* "A good student" is known for doing their homework (widely prescribed in gender-neutral style guides)Singular
* "Mary" is known for doing her homework

In the middle two of these example sentences, traditional grammars speak of the pronoun referring to "a good student". However, following analysis by Quine, writers like Lewis (above) understand structures involving generic antecedents to be a logically distinct class. Pinker notes the pronouns are not in fact referring to anything in particular. Geoffrey Pullum uses the logical, rather than grammatical, term "bound variable" to describe such expressions.

Irrespective of how such cases are explained grammatically, however, both are well-formed English sentences. Both are attested in English literature prior to the 20th century, and both are still attested in 21st century English. [Huddleston and Pullum, "Student's Introduction," p.105.] ["For those listening or reading, it has become unremarkable - an element of common usage." wikiref |id=Peters-2004 |text="The Cambridge Guide to English Usage", p. 538]

"Singular" "they", although morphologically a plural pronoun, is often used in those circumstances when an indefinite number is signified by an indefinite singular antecedent; for example,
* "The person you mentioned, are they coming?", not *"… is they coming?"

This is analogous to the pronoun "you", which originally was only plural, but by about 1700 replaced "thou" for singular referents, ["Guide to English Usage" (2004) p.539] while retaining the plural verb form. Some uses of "singular" "they" follow a grammatical rule whereby singular indefinite antecedents (such as "everyone, anyone, no one," and "all") are followed by a coordinate or independent clause containing the plural pronoun 'they'. The plural reflexive form "themselves" is used as well; with some speakers using the singular form "themself", in particular with semantically singular "they".

Even when the gender is known, "they" is sometimes found with a generic referent. For example: "A teenage boy rarely thinks about their future." [Michael Newman (1997) "Epicene pronouns: The linguistics of a prescriptive problem"; Newman (1997) "What can pronouns tell us? A case study of English epicenes", "Studies in language" 22:2, 353-389.] "A teenage boy rarely thinks about his future" is more likely in formal writing.

Many other modern uses follow the prescription of gender-neutral English in the style manuals of various organizations. As the syntactically singular third-person pronouns of English are all either gender-specific ("he" and "she") or inappropriate for reference to people ("it"), "singular" "they" is also often used where the sex of the referent is either unknown or irrelevant:
* A child becomes an adult when they turn 18.
* Someone called for you, but they did not leave a message.

Gender neutral language movement

In the late 20th century, the feminist movement expressed concern regarding the use of generic "he" in the English language. The feminist claim was that such usage contributes to an assumption that maleness is "standard," and that femaleness is "different". They also claimed that such use is misogynistic. One response to this was an increase in the use of generic "she" in academic journal articles from around this time. However, the more common response has been prescriptive, with many institutions publishing gender neutral style guides, notably in government, academia and publishing. [Some examples: [ Federation Press Style Guide for use in preparation of book manuscripts] (PDF file); [ Australian Guide to Legal Citation] ] For example, "The Cambridge Guide to English Usage" (2004) expresses several preferences. "Generic/universal "their" provides a gender-free pronoun, avoiding the exclusive "his" and the clumsy "his/her"."

It avoids gratuitous sexism and gives the statement broadest reference. … "They", "them", "their" are now freely used in agreement with singular indefinite pronouns and determiners, those with universal implications such as any(one), every(one), no(one), as well as each and some(one), whose reference is often more individual. … For those listening or reading, it has become unremarkable - an element of common usage. ["Cambr. Guide to Eng. Usage" (2004), p. 538 ]
The use of masculine generic nouns and pronouns in written and spoken language has decreased since the 1960s. [Pauwels 2003, p. 563.] In a corpus of spontaneous speech collected in Australia in the 1990s, "singular" "they" had become the most frequently used generic pronoun. [Pauwels, p. 564)] The increased usage of "singular" "they" may be at least partly due to an increasing desire for gender-neutral language; while writers a hundred years ago might have had no qualm using "he" with a referent of indeterminate gender, writers today often feel uncomfortable with this. One solution in formal writing has often been to write "he or she", or something similar, but this is considered awkward when used excessively, overly politically correct, [Lou Ann Matossian, " [ Burglars, Babysitters, and Persons: A Sociolinguistic Study of Generic Pronoun Usage in Philadelphia and Minneapolis] " (University of Pennsylvania, 1997), accessed 10 June 2006.] or both.

In certain contexts, singular "they" may sound less obtrusive and more natural than generic "he", or "he or she". One guide offered the following example:

Some grammar and usage guides have accepted singular uses of "they", in cases limited to references to an indeterminate person. ["American Heritage Dictionary", (1992); and "Chicago Manual of Style", (1993); cited in Laura Madson and Robert Hessling, "Readers' Perceptions of Four Alternatives to Masculine Generic Pronouns", "Journal of Social Psychology" 141.1 (February 2001): 156–158. See also Baranowski 2002.] For example, "A person might find themself in a fix" is considered standard English, but not *"Dr. Brown might find themself in a fix". For the latter, the most usual circumlocutions are: recasting the sentence in the plural ("Doctors might find themselves …"), second person ("If you're a doctor, you might find yourself …"), or sometimes reflexive ("One might find oneself …"). Singular "they" is occasionally used to refer to an indeterminate person whose gender is known, as in "No mother should be forced to testify against their child".

Some grammarians (e.g., Fowler 1992, pp. 300–301) continue to view singular "they" as grammatically inconsistent, and recommend either recasting in the plural or avoiding the pronoun altogether. Others say that there is no sufficient reason not to extend singular "they" to include specific people of unknown gender, as well as to transgender, bigender, intersexual and androgyne people, and those who do not identify exclusively with either gender. [Amy Warenda, " [ They] ", "Writing across the Curriculum" 4 (April 1993): 89–97 (PDF file; URL accessed September 17, 2006); Juliane Schwarz, " [ Non-sexist language at the beginning of the 21st century: A feminist topic in a post-feminist era] ", research colloquium handout, 2003 (PDF file; URL accessed June 10, 2005); see also Baranowski 2002.]

Some manuals of style remain neutral on the subject. The "Chicago Manual of Style" states: "On the one hand, it is unacceptable to a great many reasonable readers to use the generic masculine pronoun ('he' in reference to no one in particular). On the other hand, it is unacceptable to a great many readers either to resort to nontraditional gimmicks to avoid the generic masculine (by using 'he/she' or 's/he.' for example) or to use 'they' as a kind of singular pronoun." (233) On the one hand, those objecting to the generic masculine pronoun are described as "reasonable readers" while those objecting to the singular they remain unmodified by any such adjective. On the other, 'he/she' and "singular" "they" are described as nontraditional gimmicks. This stops short of an endorsement of any particular course of action.

Other style manuals explicitly reject the use of the singular "they" in grammar. According to the "Publication Manual of the American Psychological Society", a pronoun must agree in both gender and number with the noun it replaces. The APA manual offers the following example as "incorrect" usage:

The APA recommends using "he or she," using "they" with a plural subject, or simply rewriting the sentence to avoid issues with gender or number.

The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) also maintains that pronouns must agree in number, and that the singular "they" is incorrect usage. [ [ The OWL at Purdue] Retrieved September 17, 2008.]

Current debate relates to not only grammar but also to wider questions of political correctness and equal rights, and in particular, the extent to which language influences thought.

ee also

* Gender-neutral language in English
* Gender-neutral pronoun



*cite web
first=W. M.
authorlink=W. M. Baskervill
coauthors=J. W. Sewell
title= An English Grammar

*cite book
first=Henry Ramsey
coauthors=Jane E. Aaron
title=The Little, Brown Handbook
edition = 5th ed.

*cite book
authorlink=Rodney Huddleston
coauthors=Geoffrey K. Pullum
title=The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language
publisher=Cambridge University Press
location=Cambridge; New York
pages=ch. 5, §17.2.4, pp. 491–5
chapter=Singular pronouns denoting humans without specification of sex

*cite book
authorlink=Rodney Huddleston
coauthors=Geoffrey K. Pullum
title=A Student's Introduction to English Grammar
publisher=Cambridge University Press
location=Cambridge; New York

*cite book
authorlink=Otto Jespersen
title=Progress in Language, with Special Reference to English
location=New York

*cite book
title=The Cambridge Guide to English Usage
publisher=Cambridge University Press

*cite book
chapter=Chapter 12: The Language Mavens
title=The Language Instinct

*cite web
first=Geoffrey K.
authorlink=Geoffrey K. Pullum
coauthors=from a radio broadcast
title=Anyone who had a heart
work=speaking with Jill Kitson
publisher=Australian Broadcasting Corporation

*cite book
title=Minimalist Syntax: Exploring the Structure of English
publisher=Cambridge University Press

*cite book
authorlink=John Simpson (lexicographer)
coauthors=Edmund Weiner
title=The Oxford English Dictionary
edition = 2nd ed.
publisher=Oxford University Press

Further reading


External links

* [ Brasoveanu, Adrian.] [ "Singular 'Donkey' Pronouns Are Semantically Distributive, Not (Necessarily) Singular".]
*Chierchia, Gennaro. [ 'Reference to kinds across languages'.] "Natural Language Semantics" 6 (1998): 339–405.
*Yamashina, Miyuki and Christopher Tancredi. [ 'Degenerate Plurals'.] In "Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung" 9 (2005). Edited by Emar Maier and others.
* [ The Singular "They"]
* [ Singular They and Jane Austen]
* Williams, John. [ Singular They] . "Gender Neutral Pronoun FAQ". "Æther Lumina". One person's opinion.
* Pinker, Steven. [ Steven Pinker on the English singular "their" construction] . From "The Language Instinct."
* [ Regender] can translate web pages to use the gender-neutral singular "they".
* [ Grammar myths debunked] Geoff Pullum summarized very briefly indeed, on the occasion of the publication of "The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language". Myth number three, that “‘They’ must never occur with a singular antecedent”, is disposed of in three short sentences.
*" [ Anyone who had a heart (would know their own language)] " by Geoff Pullum. Transcript of a radio talk. This does not dodge technical issues, but it is still very accessible, and less prescriptive than usual.
* [ Everyone at "The Times" agrees ... no they don't] Geoff Pullum at his prescriptive best, from the (London) "Times."
* " [ Examples of singular "their" etc. from the "OED" and elsewhere] ". A 1986 message to NET.NLANG that copies a lot of material from the "OED", and miscellaneous other material, from "Henry Churchyard's linguistics page".
* [ Singular "They", Department of Justice, Canada]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • singular they — noun The use of they to agree to with a singular antecedent as in the sentence Everyone said they knew what they were doing …   Wiktionary

  • They — (IPAEng|ðeɪ) is a third person, personal pronoun (subject case) in Modern English.UsageThe singular they is the use of this pronoun, where they is used as a gender neutral singular rather than plural pronoun. The correctness of this usage is… …   Wikipedia

  • They singulier — Le they singulier est l utilisation dans la langue anglaise du pronom de la troisième personne du pluriel they pour désigner une personne seule de sexe indéterminé. Le they singulier est courant en langage officieux et devient de plus en plus… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • they — (thā) pron. 1) Used to refer to the ones previously mentioned or implied. 2) Usage Problem Used to refer to the one previously mentioned or implied, especially as a substitute for generic he: »Every person has rights under the law, but they don t …   Word Histories

  • they — ► PRONOUN (third person pl. ) 1) used to refer to two or more people or things previously mentioned or easily identified. 2) people in general. 3) informal people in authority regarded collectively. 4) used to refer to a person of unspecified sex …   English terms dictionary

  • they — they, them, their These three pronouns have all been used since the 16c to refer back to a singular pronoun, especially an indefinite pronoun such as anyone, everyone, nobody, someone, etc.: • If someone walks across it, they interrupt the beam P …   Modern English usage

  • Singular and plural — ◊ GRAMMAR The singular is the form of a count noun or a verb which you use when referring to one person or thing. The plural is the form which you use when referring to more than one person or thing. For details of these forms, see entries at… …   Useful english dictionary

  • singular and plural — ◊ GRAMMAR The singular is the form of a count noun or a verb which you use when referring to one person or thing. The plural is the form which you use when referring to more than one person or thing. For details of these forms, see entries at… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Singular value decomposition — Visualization of the SVD of a 2 dimensional, real shearing matrix M. First, we see the unit disc in blue together with the two canonical unit vectors. We then see the action of M, which distorts the disk to an ellipse. The SVD decomposes M into… …   Wikipedia

  • Singular homology — In algebraic topology, a branch of mathematics, singular homology refers to the study of a certain set of topological invariants of a topological space X , the so called homology groups H n(X). Singular homology is a particular example of a… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.