1

As we know, when the pronoun someone is used, the succeeding verb will be conjugated in the 3rd-person singular. Thus, the following sentence demonstrates legal usage:

I cannot enter the room; someone is cooking.

However, note the following sentence:

I cannot enter the room; someone is cooking, are they not?

As can be seen in the second sentence, when a question tag is used, it doesn't use the corresponding conjugation of the 3rd-person singular previously used, but rather, it takes on the 3rd-person plural. Why is this the case? What is more, why is the following sentence illegal?

I cannot enter the room; someone are cooking, are they not?

I thank you, in advance, for your responses.

marked as duplicate by tchrist, user140086, Edwin Ashworth, Community Nov 21 '15 at 16:43

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  • An answer to the question is here. – user140086 Nov 21 '15 at 14:52
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is answered at 'Is there a correct gender-neutral, singular pronoun (“his” versus “her” versus “their”)?' etc. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 21 '15 at 15:31
  • How does that make it off-topic? It just makes it a potential duplicate (arguably) – Mr Chasi Nov 21 '15 at 16:42
  • I think this was closed against the wrong "duplicate". It should have been One of us is wrong, aren't we? – FumbleFingers Nov 21 '15 at 17:08
2

"Someone" (as well as "anyone", "everyone", "no-one") takes the singular form (example source). This is why

I cannot enter the room; someone is cooking

is correct but

I cannot enter the room; someone are cooking

is not.

However, "someone" is gender-neutral, and so when that "someone" is referred to by a personal pronoun, "they" (taking the plural form) is used instead of "he" or "she", because "they" is the most commonly used gender-neutral pronoun - see here.

  • It's probably the most commonly used gender-neutral pronoun because it's been covered on ELU so often. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 21 '15 at 15:28

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