Singular they is the use of they (or its inflected forms, such as them or their) to refer to an entity that is not plural, or not necessarily plural. Though singular they has a long history of usage and is very common in everyday English, its use has been criticised by prescriptivists. It typically occurs in these situations:
- Indeterminate gender – when they refers to an individual person of unknown or unspecified gender, for example, "One student failed their exam". This usage is known as epicene they.
- Indeterminate number – when they has no definite antecedent, or can be interpreted as referring to either a singular or plural entity. This usage is also known as generic they. For example, in "Anyone who thinks they have been affected should contact their doctor", they and their are within the scope of the universal, distributive quantifier anyone, and can be interpreted as referring to an unspecified individual or to people in general (notwithstanding the fact that "anyone" is strictly grammatically singular).
In some cases, they is used even when both the number and gender of the subject are known, but the identity of the person is generic, e.g. "If some guy beat me up, I'd leave them."
- 1 Summary
- 2 Usage
- 3 Grammatical analysis
- 4 Gender-neutral language movement
- 5 Acceptability
- 6 Comparison with other languages
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
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)
- (Their can be understood equally well as referring to each man considered one at a time, or to all of them collectively.)
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 with great liberality. — Thackeray, Vanity Fair (1848)
- (The relevant person here is Becky Sharp. Thackeray has Rosalind using their as a polite circumlocution, perhaps avoiding the directness of she ... her, and generic his in a context involving only women; or perhaps with Rosalind meaning the statement to apply to people in general with Becky Sharp as an example.)
This is explained by David Lewis's analysis of an aspect of the logic of the semantics of natural language, now called quantificational variability effect (QVE). Broader research in the area is still active, under the name donkey pronouns.
In this kind of analysis, singular they in English is typically an example of a semantically bound variable, rather than a simple referential pronoun. It is most clearly evident in the special case of distributive constructions, where the preference many languages show for singular pronouns probably gives rise to the singular in "singular they".
- Those ladies over there are wearing their best clothes. [definite, plural, referring pronoun]
- On a day like today, anyone would want to wear their best clothes. [indefinite, generic and epicene, non-referring anaphor]
Modern codification of the rule in English can be found in the mid 18th century with Anne Fisher's A New Grammar, generic use of the pronoun he has been preferred (but not required) in such constructions by many contemporary grammar and usage books.
In the 19th century, grammarians in England petitioned the British Parliament to declare gender-indeterminate pronouns as 'he' rather than 'they', which was common usage at the time. 
Continuing the trend away from singular they, an 1896 grammar notes:
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.
Examples of generic he
- Who of thise wormes shall be byten, He must have triacle; Yf not that, he shall deye. — Caxton, Dialogues in French and English. (c. 1484)
- 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 would not be as if the lone astronaut would be completely by himself. — Nancy Atkinson, "A One Way One Person Mission to Mars" (4 March 2008)
- Kitchen table issues ... are ones the next president can actually do something about if he actually cares about it. More likely if she cares about it!” — Hillary Rodham Clinton, presidential campaign rally (12 May 2008)
Generic he is still current English usage, though the gender neutral language movement discourages this use.
Generic he has been 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."
Examples of generic they
- Eche of theym sholde ... make theymselfe redy. — Caxton, Sonnes of Aymon (c. 1489)
- "They Flee From Me", a poem by Thomas Wyatt
- Arise; one knocks. / ... / Hark, how they knock! — Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet (c. 1595)
- '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)
However, in some of these sentences, there is a component of pluralness in the meaning of "they".
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." In other words, no man is syntactically singular, demonstrated by taking the singular form goes; however, it is semantically plural (all go [to kill] not to be killed), hence idiomatically requiring generic or plural (not singular) they.
Despite such use of they by admired writers for many centuries, many Americans avoid use of they to refer to a singular antecedent out of respect for a purported grammatical rule. A majority of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language usage panel generally claimed to "reject the use of they with singular antecedents," though this depended on the context and the semantics of the individual sentence; thus 82% of the panelists found the sentence "The typical student in the program takes about six years to complete their course work" to be unacceptable, but 64% accepted No one is willing to work for those wages anymore, are they? in informal speech.
A study has also shown that reading time of they increased significantly when used with a gender-determinate antecedent, suggesting that such use can confuse.
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, generic 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.
|Nominative (subject)||Accusative (object)||Prenominal possessive||Predicative possessive||Reflexive|
|He||He laughs.||I hug him.||His hair grows.||I use his.||He feeds himself.|
|She||She laughs.||I hug her.||Her hair grows.||I use hers.||She feeds herself.|
|Prototypical they||When my children watch "The Simpsons", they laugh.||Whether they win or lose, I hug them.||As long as people live, their hair grows.||Most of my friends have cell phones, so I use theirs.||The children feed themselves.|
|Singular they||When I tell someone a joke they laugh.||When I greet a friend I hug them.||When someone does not get a haircut, their hair grows long.||If my mobile phone runs out of power, a friend that I am with lets me borrow theirs.||Each child feeds themself. (nonstandard)|
|Generic he||When I tell someone a joke he laughs.||When I greet a friend I hug him.||When someone does not get a haircut, his hair grows long.||If my mobile phone runs out of power, a friend that I am with lets me borrow his.||Each child feeds himself.|
- 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
- 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.
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, 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 nonstandard 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."
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.
- One person died early Sunday when the all-terrain vehicle they were riding hit a tree that had fallen over a road.
Distributive constructions apply a single idea to multiple members of a group. They are typically marked in English by words like each, every and any. The simplest examples are applied to groups of two, and use words like either and or—"Would you like tea or coffee?". 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 a singular pronoun is used.
- England expects that every man will do his duty. — Nelson (1806, referring to a fleet crewed by male sailors)
- Every dog hath his day.
- — John Ray, A Collection of English Proverbs, 1670
- originally from Plutarch, Moralia, c. 95 AD, regarding the death of Euripides
However, many languages, including English, show ambivalence in this regard. Because distribution also requires a group with more than one member, plural forms are sometimes used.
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. The concept of free and bound variables arose in logic well before Quine discussed its relevance to the English language. Pinker argues that usage of singular they in English cannot be criticized, 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.
Everyone returned to their seat 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:
- plural they — Everyone returned to their seats.
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.
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". It 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. 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.
The use of masculine generic nouns and pronouns in written and spoken language has decreased since the 1960s. In a corpus of spontaneous speech collected in Australia in the 1990s, singular they had become the most frequently used generic pronoun. 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, 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:
Nobody in their right mind would do a thing like that.
Some usage guides accept or recommend singular uses of they not just in cases where there is an element of semantic plurality expressed by a word such as "everyone" but also where an indeterminate person is referred to, citing examples of such usage even in formal speech. For instance, Casey Miller and Kate Swift, in The Handbook of Non-Sexist Writing, quote Ronald Reagan:
"You must identify the person who has the power to hire you and show them how your skills can help them with their problems."
However, use of they for persons of indeterminate gender existed long before the modern gender-neutral language movement; as attested by Merriam Webster's Dictionary of English Usage:
"They are uses following a normal pattern in English that was established four centuries before the 18th-century grammarians invented the solecism."
Examples given are:
- "We can only know an actual person by observing their behaviour in a variety of different situations." (George Orwell)
- ". . . unless a person takes a deal of exercise,they may son eat more than does them good." (Herbert Spencer, 1904)
- "A person can't help their birth" (W. M. Thackeray, 1848)
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 college handbooks, such as The Little, Brown Handbook, 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 gender non-conforming, bigender, intersex and androgyne people, and those who do not identify exclusively with either gender.
Some manuals of style remain neutral on the subject while other style manuals explicitly reject the use of 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" reflexive usage:
Neither the highest scorer nor the lowest scorer in the group had any doubt about their competence.
while also specifically taking a stand that generic he is unacceptable (p. 66). The APA recommends using he or she, recasting the sentence with a plural subject to allow correct use of they, or simply rewriting the sentence to avoid issues with gender or number.
The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) also maintains that pronouns should agree in number with their antecedents, and that the singular they is incorrect usage, but suggests use of a plural noun with they when gender is unclear.
By definition, debate about whether singular they is acceptable or not lies within the realm of prescriptive grammar. Current debate relates not only to grammar but also to wider questions of political correctness and equal rights, and in particular, the extent to which language influences thought.
There has been considerable debate as to the acceptability of singular they. Regarding usage, The Chicago Manual of Style notes:
A singular antecedent requires a singular referent pronoun. Because he is no longer accepted as a generic pronoun referring to a person of either sex, it has become common in speech and in informal writing to substitute the third-person plural pronouns they, them, their, and themselves, and the nonstandard singular themself. While this usage is accepted in casual contexts, it is still considered ungrammatical in formal writing. . . . Employing an artificial form such as s/he is distracting at best, and most readers find it ridiculous. There are several better ways to avoid the problem. For example, use the traditional, formal he or she, him or her, his or her, himself or herself.
With the 14th edition (1993), Chicago briefly revised its neutral stance to actually recommend "singular use of they and their", noting a "revival" of this usage and citing "its venerable use by such writers as Addison, Austen, Chesterfield, Fielding, Ruskin, Scott, and Shakespeare." However, regret regarding that printing is expressed at its website; and with the 15th edition (2003), it returned to its original neutral position.
The 2011 translation of the New International Version Bible uses singular they instead of "he" or "he or she", reflecting changes in English usage, the translators having commissioned a study of modern English usage and determined that singular "they" ("them"/"their") is by far the most common way that English-language speakers and writers today refer back to singular antecedents such as "whoever, anyone, somebody, a person, no one, and the like."
Comparison with other languages
If, following Pinker's proposal, they is considered as a pair of homonyms, 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).
(1) Nork/zeinek bere ama ikusi du who-erg/which-erg his/her mother seen has 'Everyone saw his/her mother'
In (1), an indeterminate pronoun takes on a universal distributive value. Such a value is not a lexical property of the relevant indeterminate pronouns.
Basque is far from the only example of this. S.-Y. Kuroda considered it typical of East Asian languages, Japanese and Korean in particular. 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". Some suggest that such a linguistic dispute is typical of Indo-European languages, especially Slavic languages such as Russian, Polish or Bulgarian where the system of singular and plural nouns is quite complex.
- Royal we
- Bound variable pronoun
- Gender-neutral language in English
- Gender-neutral pronoun
- Notional agreement, also contested by prescriptivists, used with the generic they.
- Huddleston, Rodney; Pullum, Geoffrey (2002). The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 493–494. ISBN 0-521-43146-8.
- "The use of the plural anaphoric ... pronouns 'they' or 'them' to mark non-reference or vague reference in spoken English is well entrenched, as in:
(63) a. If anybody shows up, tell them to wait.
- b. If anybody did that, they'd be insane."
- 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).
- 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.
- 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).
- Quine, Willard V. (1960). "Variables Explained Away". Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 104 (3): 343–7. JSTOR 985250.
- Or "pronoun of laziness". Geach, work cited.
- Since these make the quantification explicit.
- For, specifically, donkey anaphora analogues in languages other than English, see publications by Adrian Brasoveanu.
- Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct, 1994. Quoted online.
- Female grammarians of the eighteenth century
- Basic Grammar And Usage
- Dale Spender, Man Made Language, 1990.
- W. M. Baskervill and J. W. Sewell, An English Grammar, 1896. Emphasis added.
- Caxton, William (1890) [c. 1489]. Bradley, Henry, ed. Dialogues in French and English. Project Gutenberg. pp. 38f. Retrieved 2011-11-18
- Alex Spillius , "US elections: Hillary Clinton 'about to drop out'", The Daily Telegraph 12 May 2008.
- 'They with Singular Antecedent', American Heritage Book of English Usage: A Practical and Authoritative Guide to Contemporary English, 1996.
- Caxton, William (1884) [c. 1489]. Richardson, Octavia, ed. The right plesaunt and goodly historie of the foure sonnes of Aymon. Early English Text Society. pp. 38f. Retrieved 2010-02-04
- The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage (1989), p. 903.
- The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2006 . p. 1796. ISBN 978-0-618-70172-8.
- 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.
- Huddleston and Pullum, Student's Introduction, p.105.
- "For those listening or reading, it has become unremarkable – an element of common usage."
- Peters, Pam (2004), The Cambridge Guide to English Usage, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-62181-X
- Guide to English Usage (2004) p.539
- "Themselves or themself?". oxforddictionaries.com. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 18 February 2012.
- Michael Newman (1996) 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.
- "Either the plural or the singular may be acceptable for a true bound pronoun.
(59) Every student thinks she / they is / are smart." (p. 142.)
C.-T. James Huang (1995), "Logical form", pages 125–240 in Gert Webelhuth, Government and binding theory and the minimalist program: principles and parameters in syntactic theory, Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-18061-3
- Some examples: Federation Press Style Guide for use in preparation of book manuscripts[dead link] (PDF file); Australian Guide to Legal Citation[dead link]
- Cambr. Guide to Eng. Usage (2004), p. 538
- Pauwels 2003, p. 563.
- Pauwels, (p. 564)
- Lou Ann Matossian, Burglars, Babysitters, and Persons: A Sociolinguistic Study of Generic Pronoun Usage in Philadelphia and Minneapolis (University of Pennsylvania, 1997). Retrieved 10 June 2006.
- Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum, A Student's Introduction to English Grammar (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005; ISBN 0-521-84837-7), pp. 103–105.
- Miller, Casey; Swift, Kate (1995) . Kate Mosse, ed. The Handbook of Non-Sexist Writing for Writers, Editors and Speakers" (3rd ed.). The Women's Press. p. 50. ISBN 0-7043-4442-4.
- Merriam-Webster, Inc (1994). Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage (2nd ed.). Merriam-Webster. pp. 902–903. ISBN 978-0-87779-132-4.
- Fowler, Henry Ramsey; Jane E. Aaron (1992). The Little, Brown Handbook (5th ed.). HarperCollins. pp. 300–301. ISBN 0-673-52132-X. N.B.: This is not the English usage authority Henry Watson Fowler.
- 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.
- Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (5th Ed.). (2001). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association. p. 47.
- The OWL at Purdue. Retrieved August 30, 2013.
- Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition, (2010): 5.46.
- Chicago Manual of Style, 14th edition, (1993): p. 76-77.
- Chicago Manual of Style Q&A
- "New Bible draws critics of gender-neutral language". The Washington Post. Associated Press. 17 March 2011. Retrieved 23 November 2013.
- Ricardo Etxepare,[dead link] 'Indeterminate pronouns and universal quantification in Basque', (University of California, Los Angeles, Semantics and Linguistic Theory Conference 15, unpublished paper, 2005).
- S.-Y. Kuroda, An Integrated Theory of Linguistic Description, (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1969).
- Dietz Otto Edzard, Hand buch der Orientalistik, (Leiden: Brill, 2003).
- Balhorn, Mark (2004). "The Rise of Epicene They". Journal of English Linguistics (SAGE Publications) 32 (2): 79–104. doi:10.1177/0075424204265824.
- Baranowski, M. (August 2002). "Current usage of the epicene pronoun in written English.". Journal of Sociolinguistics 6 (3): 378–397. doi:10.1111/1467-9481.00193.
- Baskervill, W. M.; J. W. Sewell (1896). "An English Grammar". Retrieved 2007-07-09.
- Brasoveanu, Adrian (October 2008). "Donkey pluralities: plural information states versus non-atomic individuals". Linguistics and Philosophy 31 (2): 129–209. doi:10.1007/s10988-008-9035-0.
- Fodor, Janet Dean; Ivan A. Sag (1982). "Referential and Quantificational Indefinites". Journal Linguistics and Philosophy (Springer Netherlands) 5 (3): 355–398. doi:10.1007/BF00351459.
- Huddleston, Rodney; Geoffrey K. Pullum (2002). "Singular pronouns denoting humans without specification of sex". The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. ch. 5, §17.2.4, pp. 491–5. ISBN 0-521-43146-8.
- Huddleston, Rodney; Geoffrey K. Pullum (2005). A Student's Introduction to English Grammar. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 103–105. ISBN 0-521-84837-7.
- Jespersen, Otto (1894). Progress in Language, with Special Reference to English. New York: Macmillan.
- Liberman, Anatoly (2006). "Pluralia Tantum, Or, E Pluribus Unum: Three Adventures with the Plural". Verbatim 31 (1): 26–29.
- Newman, Michael (1997). Epicene Pronouns: The Linguistics of a Prescriptive Problem. Outstanding Dissertations in Linguistics. New York: Garland. ISBN 0-8153-2554-1.
- Pauwels, Anne (2003). "Linguistic sexism and feminist linguistic activism". In Holmes, Janet and Meyerhoff, Miriam (eds.). The Handbook of Language and Gender. Malden, MA: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-22502-1.
- Peters, Pam (2004), The Cambridge Guide to English Usage, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-62181-X
- Pinker, Steven (1994). "Chapter 12: The Language Mavens". The Language Instinct. Retrieved 2007-07-09.
- Pullum, Geoffrey K.; from a radio broadcast (2002-05-04). "Anyone who had a heart". speaking with Jill Kitson. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2012-12-27. Unknown parameter
- Radford, Andrew (2004). Minimalist Syntax: Exploring the Structure of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-54274-X.
- Simpson, John; Edmund Weiner (1989). The Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-861186-2.
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|Look up they in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- "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
- Pinker, Steven. Steven Pinker on the English singular "their" construction. From The Language Instinct.
- "Anyone who had a heart (would know their own language)" by Geoff Pullum. Transcript of a radio talk.
- Everyone at The Times agrees ... no they don't Geoffrey Pullum with Times.
- Singular "They", Department of Justice, Canada