31

An online retail store is asking its customers to construct a sentence beginning with them in order to win a voucher. I just can't believe there's any such sentence, at least I don't know of any!

I've had enough laughs with friends coming up with Americanisms that fit, so that's not what I'm looking for.

I'm just very curious, is such a sentence grammatically possible or is this store just being mischievous?

  • 1
    Hot Licks, that's used with poetic license, but thanks. – user191110 Sep 8 at 18:31
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    Also: Them is fighting words. merriam-webster.com/dictionary/them – user47014 Sep 8 at 20:59
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it addresses possible rather than identified (or identified possible) individual constructions. It is far too general in scope. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 9 at 11:49
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    Starts with 'them' the word or just them? As in thematic. – Sentinel Sep 9 at 12:25
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    Reminder to everyone: comments are for suggesting improvements to the question or asking for clarification, not for answers. Leave answers as answers. – V2Blast Sep 10 at 8:39

18 Answers 18

58

Fronting the object for focus, by converting an SVO sentence into an OSV one, is a common enough syntactic pattern in English:

Contest Rules

Submitting ungrammatical sentences is of no use here.
Them we refuse to even consider.

  • 6
    "Them, they are the people you need to speak to", for example. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Sep 8 at 21:09
  • 5
    While I agree with the fronting in general, fronting them sounds as bad to me as fronting it. ("It we refuse to even conisder" sounds really bad to me.) "Those we refuse to even consider" sounds way better to me. However, I'm not a native speaker, am I off here? – sgf Sep 9 at 7:26
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    Them is not a good word to start a sentence with. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Sep 9 at 10:06
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    I'm okay with this. Although I wouldn't say it's "common enough"; on the contrary, it's exceedingly rare in contemporary English to use a "pronoun-object subject verb" order. In archaic English, I can imagine it being much less uncommon. Early Modern English for sure. – Noldorin Sep 10 at 1:38
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    @Noldorin It's SOV not OSV that's exceedingly rare in current English. SOV: With this ring, I thee wed, till death us do part. OSV: These green goblets bore me, but the red one I'll definitely buy. Fronting is a stylistic choice for emphasis. It certainly happens. Only SOV sounds dated to me, not OSV. – tchrist Sep 10 at 3:57
61

Them?

This is a complete sentence.

  • 2
    I have this voucher to be given as a prize. Whom should I give it to? Them? – GEdgar Sep 9 at 0:20
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    Why do some people say this kind of thing is a "sentence fragment being mistaken for a complete sentence..." etc? – cat Sep 9 at 1:55
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    @cat Because it's a deleted form of a complete sentence. Without context, it's impossible to determine what the sentence was (and so this answer is at best dubious). The complete sentence might have been "Was it them?" "Is it them, the books that you're looking for?" .... – Edwin Ashworth Sep 9 at 14:37
53

At the risk of stating the obvious:

'Them' is the word that starts this sentence.

  • 4
    Nice work. A variation on this was the first thing I thought of too: "Them is my favourite word." Using these sorts of formulations one can begin a sentence with any word. – nnnnnn Sep 9 at 8:44
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    I don't think use/mention hacks count. – choster Sep 10 at 16:45
  • Doesn't say so in the question. – DJClayworth Sep 10 at 16:47
38

This form (using a gerund, or noun phrase) hasn't been mentioned yet, and is grammatical albeit awkward:

Them being able to come up with such unusual sentences was a surprise to some but not to others.

(Note that "their" — and perhaps "they" too — is also acceptable as the first word, but by no means obligatory, and in fact less common.)

  • Note that they is also acceptable as a first word. – Benjamin Harman Sep 9 at 18:07
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    @BenjaminHarman I’m tempted to say that’s a hypercorrection, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it. Just less often than the other two. – Noldorin Sep 9 at 18:17
  • @BenjaminHarman — Neither acceptable to me. But, as my own answer indicates, I have high linguistic standards. – David Sep 9 at 18:22
  • @BenjaminHarman On second thought, I’m not sure it is a hypercorrection, but it does sound a tad (more) awkward to me. We’re talking of grey areas here. – Noldorin Sep 9 at 21:30
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    @chapner How do you mean? This is just the way a gerund is conventionally formed. – Noldorin Sep 10 at 16:24
24

Them was Van Morrison's band in the 60's.

Them Again was the name of their second album.

Them In Reality was the name of their 1971 album.

At least four sentences on the linked wikipedia page meet your question.

  • 3
    Beat me to it! +1 – Tim Sep 9 at 15:13
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    Similar idea: Them! is my favorite movie involving giant ants. – Dave Sep 9 at 18:46
17

Have you never seen a Western? Typical dialogue:

“Them there critters are mighty jumpy tonight”

And here is a real example from The Legend of Barry Claw

“Them there Injuns sure won’t never forgets…”

Enjoy.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Sep 10 at 13:39
13

Them and meth are anagrams.

This is a sample sentence.

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    I don't think use/mention hacks count. – choster Sep 9 at 18:47
7

‘Them bones, them bones, them dry bones’ are lyrics from a spiritual, that also appear in a song by Alice in Chains.

http://www.metrolyrics.com/them-bones-lyrics-alice-in-chains.html

‘Them’, as opposed to ‘theme’, is the correct word for a group of people or items.

Them! is a 1954 fantasy sci-fi movie.

https://www.google.com.sg/search?q=them&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en-sg&client=safari

😊

7

My grandmother, who lived through the depression as a sixth child in a hardscrabble mining family, had a saying - "Them that has, gets."

  • I prefer "Them as has, gets." – Grump Sep 10 at 13:22
  • Last word should be gits, to preserve the dialect. Them as has, gits. – ab2 ReinstateMonicaNow Nov 3 at 1:04
5

Basically most sentences you'd start off with "It is them" can equally well be started with just "Them".

"This desert has spiky rollypollies. Them you need to fear rather than spiders."

  • 4
    The grammatical construction is "It is they," not "It is them," the inverse being "They are it." That isn't to say that people don't sometimes speak ungrammatically, but if you're going to introduce an ungrammatical sentence, you should give the caveat that it's ungrammatical. – Benjamin Harman Sep 9 at 18:06
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    @BenjaminHarman: In real life, nobody says "It is they". So what possible basis could you have for calling it grammatical? Do you think that English is a language that nobody knows how to speak? I suspect that you do! But that is an extremely odd notion if you think about it. – TonyK Sep 10 at 0:34
  • @TonyK: Well, not quite nobody. There was one occasion when I visited an office looking for a certain person, and got the reply “I am she”. Which I remember precisely because it was so unexpected to hear it the “grammatical” way. – Dan Sep 10 at 15:46
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    @Dan: I stand corrected! I hope that when she passes away, they will erect a monument to her like they did for the last speaker of Cornish. – TonyK Sep 10 at 19:08
3

Them Crooked Vultures is a rock supergroup formed in Los Angeles in 2009 by John Paul Jones, Dave Grohl and Josh Homme.

3

I cannot find the actual competition — if the requirement is "them" but not the word "them", the following would qualify:

Themes are what I enjoy in competitions.

2

This one works for me:

I'm not afraid of spiders, but there were snakes everywhere. Them, I'm afraid of.

1

Them, the barbarians, who are responsible for this heinous act, will be found out and tortured!

0

Here is a sentence beginning with them, from the Cambridge Dictionary.

Them is also used to refer to a person whose sex is not known.

And more:

  • Them is the object form of the pronoun they.

  • Them is not a suitable word to begin a normal sentence in an SVO language like English.

  • 2
    I don't think use/mention hacks count. – choster Sep 9 at 18:47
0

Several options, all of which sound very antiquated but are probably grammatically acceptable:

Option 1 - Did they specify that the sentence had to be a standalone and understandable paragraph? Because if it were permitted to use it as the beginning of a second sentence, you could easily do something like this, albeit it's antiquated English:

"After Dairyman Wilson had separated the group, he called all of the farmhands between the ages of 18 and 25 to follow him into the fields. Them he gathered by the foot of the old oak tree."

Or:

"John and Iona are expected to perform, but not the others. Them, we do not expect to perform."

Option 2: consider this passage from the King James Bible (Matthew 13:12):

"For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath."

Now consider that an analogue of this sentence written to refer to groups of people in the plural, rather than individuals in the singular, and with the meaning changed slightly (for purely illustrative purposes) could be written something like this:

"Them, unto whom much has been given, shall be given more. But those who have not, from them shall be taken away even that they hath."

I'm pretty sure this (or a similar construct) would be acceptable.

Option three: alter the sentence structure of a sentence involving the word "them" and insert a "whom" - e.g., instead of saying:

"We went to the shop with them and they bought a packet of cheerios," You could say: "Them, with whom we went to the shop, bought a packet of cheerios."

I mean, people would think you had just stepped out of the pages of a Thomas Hardy novel, but it would technically be correct. I think.

0

'Them heavy people hit me in a soft spot' are lyrics in the Kate Bush song Them Heavy People

  • I think this will come down to whether or not you consider a line of lyrics as a sentence. – KillingTime Sep 9 at 20:05
0

And, of course, outside the competition but for the beauty of language: Bob Marley and The Wailers

Them belly full but we hungry
A hungry mob is an angry mob
A rain a fall but the dirt it tough
A pot a cook but the food no 'nough

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