Definition of they

1 a : those ones used as third person pronoun serving as the plural of he, she, or it or referring to a group of two or more individuals not all of the same sex
  • they dance well
b : 1he 2 often used with an indefinite third person singular antecedent
  • everyone knew where they stood
  • —E. L. Doctorow
  • nobody has to go to school if they don't want to
  • N. Y. Times
2 : people 2 used in a generic sense
  • as lazy as they come

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.

Origin and Etymology of they

Middle English, from Old Norse their, masculine plural demonstrative & personal pronoun; akin to Old English thæt that

the Y


Definition of the Y

US, informal
: the YMCA (an international organization originally for young men that provides social programs, a place for athletic activities, etc., for the people in a community) or the YWCA (a similar international organization for the people and especially the women in a community); also : the building owned and operated by the YMCA or the YWCA
  • I'm going to the Y after work tonight.

Word by Word Definitions

  1. : the 25th letter of the English alphabet

  2. : a graphic representation of this letter

  3. : a speech counterpart of orthographic y

  1. : ymca

  2. : ywca

  1. yttrium

  1. : characterized by : full of

  2. : having the character of : composed of

  3. : like : like that of

  1. : state : condition : quality

  2. : activity, place of business, or goods dealt with

  3. : whole body or group

  1. : instance of a (specified) action

  1. — see -ie

THEY Defined for Kids


pronoun \ ˈt͟hā \

Definition of they for Students

: those individuals : those ones

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resembling the blue of the sky

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