AskDefine | Define they

User Contributed Dictionary



, borrowed from þeir—nominative plural masculine of the demonstrative, which acted in Old Norse as a plural pronoun—from , from .
Cognate to þa, and Swedish/Danish/Norwegian de.



  1. In the context of "the third person plural": A group of others previously mentioned.
    Fred and Jane? They just arrived.
  2. In the context of "the third person singular|disputed": A single person, previously mentioned, but of unknown or irrelevant gender.
    Have you ever seen someone while they are on their deathbed?
  3. In the context of "indefinite pronoun, vague meaning": People; some people; someone.
    They say it’s a good place to live.
    They didn’t have computers in the old days.
    They should do something about this.

Usage notes

  • For centuries, they has been used with a singular antecedent; however, many condemn this usage for its violation of traditional agreement rules. Writers should only use this construction if they are sure it will be viewed as an intentional choice, rather than an error. See singular they for a more in-depth discussion.
  • When the sex of the person referred to is known or clear, as there is no need to use they, it is preferable to use gender-specific pronouns instead. For example:
    The doctor's advice to a pregnant woman is that she should take folic acid during her pregnancy.
which is preferable to
The doctor's advice to a pregnant woman is that they should take folic acid during their pregnancy.
  • Another indefinite pronoun is one, but the two words do not mean the same and are rarely interchangeable.


third-person plural pronoun
third-person singular, of unknown or irrelevant gender
one, people, some people

Extensive Definition

They () is a third-person, personal pronoun (subject case) in Modern English.


The "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 disputed.


They "The People"

Taken from "You know what "they" say..."
  • "They" refers to the masses of those who are among the pop culture. "They" quote sayings of individuals who could put complex events in to understandable context; believing that what "they" have just quoted would justify an event or action which had just occurred.
  • "They" may also refer to the government or society at large, such as when a paranoid conspiracy theorist proclaims "They're out to get me, man" or "They're watching me right now."
The logical position against this usage is based on the principle of methodological individualism - the obvious fact about the reality of humans that various actions such as "thinking", "saying", "feeling", "knowing", "believing" or any other physiological functions can only be done by individual humans.
they in Chechen: Уьш
"They" are beyond questioning. "They" are the collective thought that has become one of the most quoted and revered sources of information available today. "They" are above reproach and can not be directly held against their word. "They say" is a statement often used by the followers of "They". Much like Taoism, "They" can direct ones life, instruct on what should be said or done, and will always be turned to for insight. They are "They".

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

I, I myself, alter, alter ego, alterum, better self, bureaucracy, directorate, ego, ethical self, he, her, herself, hierarchy, higher echelons, higher-ups, him, himself, inner man, inner self, it, management, me, ministry, my humble self, myself, number one, officialdom, oneself, other self, ourselves, prelacy, ruling class, ruling classes, self, she, subconscious self, subliminal self, superego, the Establishment, the administration, the authorities, the ingroup, the interests, the people upstairs, the power elite, the power structure, the top, them, themselves, top brass, you, yours truly, yourself, yourselves
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