they

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they (енглески)

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English

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From Средњи Енглески thei, borrowed in the 1200s from Old Norse þeir,[1] plural of the demonstrative

which acted as a plural pronoun. Displaced native Old English

, hīe (they)

— which vowel changes had left indistinct from he (he)

— by the 1400s,[1][2][3] being readily incorporated alongside native words beginning with the same sound (the

, that

, this

). Used as a singular pronoun since 1300,[1] e.g. in the 1325 Cursor Mundi. The Norse term (whence also Исландски þeir (they), Фарски teir (they), Шведски de (they), Norwegian Nynorsk dei (they)) is from Пра-Германски *þai (those) (from Пра-Индо-Европски *to- (that)), whence also Стари Енглески þā (those) (whence obsolete English tho

), Шкотски thae, thai

, thay (they; those)

. The origin of the determiner they (the, those)

is unclear. The OED, English Dialect Dictionary and Middle English Dictionary[4] define it and its Middle English predecessor thei

as a demonstrative determiner or adjective meaning "those" or "the". This could be a continuation of the use of the English pronoun they

's Old Norse etymon þeir

as a demonstrative meaning "those", but the OED and EDD say it is limited to southern, especially southwestern, England, specifically outside the region of Norse contact.

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they (third-person, nominative case, usually plural, sometimes singular, objective case them, possessive their, possessive noun theirs, reflexive themselves, or, singular, themself)

  1. (the third-person plural) A group of people, animals, plants, or objects previously mentioned. [since the 1200s]
    Fred and Jane? They just arrived.   Dogs may bark if they want to be fed.   Plants wilt if they are not watered.
    I have a car and a truck, but they are both broken.
  2. (the third-person singular, sometimes proscribed) A single person, previously mentioned, especially if of unknown or non-binary gender, but not if previously named and identified as male or female. [since the 1300s]
    • Then shalt thou bring forth that man, or that woman (which haue committed that wicked thing) vnto thy gates, euen that man, or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones till they die.
    • 1997, Rowling, J. K., Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, (quoted edition: London: Bloomsbury, 2000, →ISBN Invalid ISBN, strana 187):
      Someone knocked into Harry as they hurried past him. It was Hermione.
    • 2008, Michelle Obama, quoted in Lisa Rogak, Michelle Obama in Her Own Words, New York, NY: PublicAffairs, 2009. →ISBN, page 18:
      One thing a nominee earns is the right to pick the vice president that they think will best reflect their vision of the country, and I am just glad I will have nothing to do with it.
    • 2014, Ivan E. Coyote, Rae Spoon, Gender Failure →ISBN
      The boycott, led by Elisha Lim, of a Toronto gay and lesbian newspaper after it refused to use their preferred pronoun ["they"], citing grammar considerations, inspired me.
    • 2015 April, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (mayor of Baltimore), commenting on the death of Freddie Gray:
      I'm angry that we're here again, that we have had to tell another mother that their child is dead.
    • For more examples of usage of this term, see Цитати:they.
  3. (indefinite pronoun, vague meaning) People; some people; people in general; someone, excluding the speaker.
    They say it’s a good place to live.
    They didn’t have computers in the old days.
    They should do something about this.
    They have a lot of snow in winter.
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  • (singular pronoun): Usage of they as a singular pronoun began in the 1300s and has been common ever since, despite attempts by some grammarians, beginning in 1795,[5] to condemn it as a violation of traditional (Latinate) agreement rules. Some other grammarians have countered that criticism since at least 1896.[6] Fowler's Modern English Usage (third edition) notes that it "is being left unaltered by copy editors" and is "not widely felt to lie in a prohibited zone." Some authors compare use of singular they to widespread use of singular you instead of thou.[7][8] See Wikipedia's article on singular they for more; see also the usage notes about themself. (Compare he.)
  • (singular pronoun): Infrequently, they is used of an individual person of known, binary gender. See citations.
  • (singular pronoun): Infrequently, they is used of an individual animal which would more commonly be referred to as it. See citations.
  • (indefinite pronoun): One is also an indefinite pronoun, but the two words do not mean the same thing and are rarely interchangeable. "They" refers to people in general, whereas "one" refers to one person (often such that what is true for that person is true for everyone). "You" may also be used to refer to people in general.
    They say, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."
    One may say, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."
    You may say, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."
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