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Posted Jul 6, 2010 10:54 UTC (Tue) by rsidd (subscriber, #2582)
In reply to: s/driver/documentation/ by nix
Parent article: A line in the sand for graphics drivers

What's "singular they"? Would you write "they sees fit" or "they merges some patch"? Doesn't sound like English to me.

Of course, you can use plural they if you make all references plural. This is usually awkward and sometimes impossible.

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Posted Jul 6, 2010 11:36 UTC (Tue) by nye (guest, #51576) [Link]

>What's "singular they"?

Possibly you should have looked it up before proceeding.

When you talk about using the 'plural they', you are of course obliquely referring to the fact that 'they' remains morphologically plural in all (correct) uses, however its usage to refer to a singular subject is well established.

It has been the preferred style for decades, an accepted style for centuries, and an existing style in English since so long ago that the language is barely recognisable.

If you can present an example sentence where using 'he' or 'she' is grammatically correct, but 'they' is not, then I would be interested to hear it.


Posted Jul 6, 2010 11:56 UTC (Tue) by farnz (subscriber, #17727) [Link]

"Singular they", as used by authors from Shakespeare onwards, is things like "they see fit" and "they merge a patch". It's simply the same pattern as "singular you"; or art thou one of the people who insisteth that "you" must be reserved for the plural form, and who joketh about "you sees fit" and "you merges a patch"?


Posted Jul 20, 2010 17:10 UTC (Tue) by pdundas (guest, #15203) [Link]

Thou speakest wisely. But prithee tell, surely thou wantedst to say "thou insistest" or "thou jokest"?

I joke / thou jokest / he joketh, et ceterea...


Posted Jul 20, 2010 17:17 UTC (Tue) by pdundas (guest, #15203) [Link]

Doh! Thou art right. I shall don mine coat, and quit this thread.


Posted Jul 6, 2010 23:49 UTC (Tue) by csamuel (✭ supporter ✭, #2624) [Link]

It's "they see fit" (or "they saw fit" for past tense), "they are merging some patches" ("they merged some patches" for past tense).


Posted Jul 16, 2010 7:48 UTC (Fri) by dododge (subscriber, #2870) [Link]

Just as more background material: the OED lists the singular use of "they" as "often used" and gives numerous examples back to 1526 "Yf..a psalme scape ony persone, or a lesson, or else yt they omyt one verse or twayne."

For further reading they reference Jespersen's "Progress in Language", which discusses it in more detail and gives many more examples. You can find scans of the 1909 2nd edition at, with the relevant text in section 24 on pages 27-30.

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