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Let's take the sentence "Have they entered their password?", where we use "they" meaning "he/she", a third person of any or unknown gender. If we replace the pronoun "they" with a more specific noun, e.g. "the user" we'll also need to replace "Have" with "Has" — "Has the user entered the password?".

For some reason I'm thinking that there's a rule in English that say that pronouns can replace nouns without changing the structure of the sentence. Since using "they" as "he/she" is relatively new, does this mean that that old rule is no longer universal? Or is the sentence "Has they entered the password?" now grammatically correct?

marked as duplicate by Robusto, sumelic, Barmar, Chappo, tchrist May 9 at 5:38

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    Using they as a singular, gender-neutral third-person pronoun still uses plural syntax. Despite describing one person, it is still written as have they. – Jason Bassford May 8 at 20:32
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    There's never been a rule in American English that pronouns replace nouns without changing the tense of the verb. My whole family is coming to Seattle for a reunion. They are staying ... And when you was substituted for thou, we didn't keep the 2nd person singular conjugation. – Peter Shor May 8 at 20:44
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    No, using they in this way is extremely old. It's not new at all. – tchrist May 8 at 22:01
  • Let's take the sentence "Have you entered your password?", where we use "you" meaning a person of unknown gender. If we replace the pronoun "you" with a more specific noun, e.g. "the user" we'll also need to replace "have" with "has" — "Has the user entered the password?" Does this mean that the sentence "Has you entered the password?" is now grammatically correct? – RegDwigнt Jun 9 at 17:10
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According to the OED "they" can be a singular or plural third person pronoun. When used with a verb it usually takes the third person plural form. "They are" as opposed to "they is", "they run" as opposed to "they runs". If there is such a rule about pronouns, then "they" is an exception no matter what they says say.

  • Upvote for the cross-out. – Barmar May 9 at 0:31
  • Is you sure it works that way? :) – tchrist May 9 at 5:38

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