Can they be used as an indefinite subject?: Usage Guide
They used as an indefinite subject (sense 2) is sometimes objected to on the grounds that it does not have an antecedent. Not every pronoun requires an antecedent, however. The indefinite they is used in all varieties of contexts and is standard.
Can they, their, them, and themselves be used as singular pronouns?: Usage Guide
They, their, them, themselves: English lacks a common-gender third person singular pronoun that can be used to refer to indefinite pronouns (such as everyone, anyone, someone). Writers and speakers have supplied this lack by using the plural pronouns.
and every one to rest themselves betake — William Shakespeare
I would have everybody marry if they can do it properly — Jane Austen
it is too hideous for anyone in their senses to buy — W. H. Auden
The plural pronouns have also been put to use as pronouns of indefinite number to refer to singular nouns that stand for many persons.
'tis meet that some more audience than a mother, since nature makes them partial, should o'erhear the speech — William Shakespeare
a person can't help their birth — W. M. Thackeray
no man goes to battle to be killed.—But they do get killed — G. B. Shaw
The use of they, their, them, and themselves as pronouns of indefinite gender and indefinite number is well established in speech and writing, even in literary and formal contexts. In recent years, these pronouns have also been adopted by individuals whose gender identity is nonbinary, as illustrated in sense 3d above.
There vs. They're vs. Their
There, they're, and their: they sound the same but have different meanings and keeping them straight can be very tricky.
We'll start with there. It has the word here in it, which can help remind us that this particular word is often about location:
There it is.
Put it there.
We'll be there soon.
It's about location in the more abstract sense too:
There you go.
There is where we disagree.
Friends who are always there for you.
It's also the one to use as the first word in sentences that have the subject after the verb:
There goes the bus.
And it's the one used with is and are at the beginning of sentences and questions:
There are plenty available.
Is there a hotel in the town?
The other two are trickier because they both have the idea of the plural in them. Both are connected to the idea of "them."
They're means "they are":
They're (=they are) funny people.
They're (=they are) the cutest puppies ever.
It can be used of non-living things too:
They're (=they are) both really good books.
They're (=they are) two of our biggest problems.
The last of this trio, their, is the possessive form of they, so it has to do with what belongs to, relates to, or is made or done by certain people, animals, or things:
It's their house.
We're their neighbors.
The trees are losing their leaves.
And there you go. They're not an easy group of words, but with practice we know you can master their distinctions.
Examples of their in a Sentence
All the furniture in their house is brand-new.
They are on friendly terms with their neighbors.
The students are seeking to exercise their rights.
The birds have left their nest.
The trees have all shed their leaves. Their artwork is on display at the museum.
He was angry because of their arriving late. See More
Recent Examples on the WebAlso receiving votes: ’72 Lakers (13 pts), ’01 Lakers (7), ’67 76ers (2), ’03 Spurs (2), ’12 Heat (2), ’72 Bucks (1) ’83 76ers (1) and ’89 Pistons (1).
*** THE PANELISTS AND THEIR BALLOTS
Jon Wilner, The Mercury News, 13 June 2017 Anti-Castro Cuban-Americans hate the idea of U.S. travelers enjoying mojitos in the police state that drove exiles from their homes and businesses.
Vivian Salama, The Seattle Times, 2 June 2017 Both had been turned in by a landlord after their owner had been evicted.
Sheldon S. Shafer, The Courier-Journal, 2 June 2017 Fidel Castro slowly faded from view, becoming even less coherent, before dying at home in November, as his brother slowly rolled back their revolution.
David A. Graham, The Atlantic, 30 May 2017 Several years (and one divorce) later, his kids had moved to New England with their mother.
Christopher Borrelli, chicagotribune.com, 28 May 2017 Cicadas have five stages in their development, and after the first stage, each subsequent stage takes about four years to complete.
Peter Wade, Esquire, 28 May 2017 The two boys endured a spell in a military school before being swept up in rock music in their teens.
Bloomberg.com, 27 May 2017 THEIR MAD AA HELL AND NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE! #womenleadership
— Proud Gay American (@Alvin_IS_Equal) June 9, 2017
@clairecmc the lone voice asking for accountability.
Rick Montgomery, kansascity.com, 9 June 2017 See More
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'their.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.