Can they be used as an indefinite subject?
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?
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. This gives you the option of using the plural pronouns where you think they sound best, and of using the singular pronouns (such as he, she, he or she, and their inflected forms) where you think they sound best.
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.
Recent Examples of their from the Web
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.
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.
Both had been turned in by a landlord after their owner had been evicted.
Fidel Castro slowly faded from view, becoming even less coherent, before dying at home in November, as his brother slowly rolled back their revolution.
Several years (and one divorce) later, his kids had moved to New England with their mother.
Cicadas have five stages in their development, and after the first stage, each subsequent stage takes about four years to complete.
The two boys endured a spell in a military school before being swept up in rock music in their teens.
With the Diamondbacks playing well, club officials decided to test the idea for this slice of their schedule.
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.
Origin and Etymology of their
Middle English, from their, pronoun, from Old Norse theirra, genitive plural demonstrative & personal pronoun; akin to Old English thæt that
First Known Use: 13th centurySee Words from the same year
THEIR Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of their for English Language Learners
: relating to or belonging to certain people, animals, or things : made or done by certain people, animals, or things
: his or her : his : her : its
THEIR Defined for Kids
Definition of their for Students
: of or relating to them or themselves especially as owners or as agents or objects of an action their clothes their deeds
Headscratcher for their
It's easy to mix up their, they're and there. Their and they're are both forms of the third person pronoun. Their means “belonging to them.” They're means “they are.” There is not related in meaning but means “in that place.” Here is a sentence that uses all three: They're on their way there.
Seen and Heard
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