Which one is correct : they are a traitor or they are traitors ?

I read "they are a traitor" on reddit

According to some people on this Subreddit and in South Africa if a White South African leaves they are a traitor, racist and trying to destroy the country.


1 Answer 1


Interesting twist to the language.

The poster wanted to not have to write he/she is a traitor, changed he/she to they, and then had to use are.

It is considered acceptable in this context.

The issue is related to gender neutrality.

Please have a look at the gender neutral pronoun singular they:

Since at least the 14th century, they (including derivatives and inflected forms, such as them, their, theirs, themselves, and themself) has been used, with varying degrees of general acceptance, to refer to a singular antecedent. This usage is often called the singular they. Today, it is unexceptional and often not regarded as incorrect, especially in informal language.Wikipedia

  • 3
    This is a good answer, but you may want to explicitly answer the question, i.e. "They are a traitor" is correct in this context... I know you imply that in your second sentence, but we need to remember that the folks reading our answers may not be fluent in English. It helps to state things clearly.
    – ColleenV
    Nov 22, 2017 at 13:43
  • @ColleenV: Nicely put. But at least mplungjan did actually post an answer here, and it does (explicitly or implicitly) contain all the relevant info. To be honest, if this answer hadn't already been posted when I first looked at the question, I might well have simply closevoted as a duplicate of an earlier "singular they" question (and I'm sure I'd have had no trouble finding one! :) Nov 22, 2017 at 16:26
  • I did not actually know there were duplicates until I saw the link since I had not seen a Singular They mentioned by words
    – mplungjan
    Nov 22, 2017 at 16:34
  • @FumbleFingers I did look for a duplicate when I added the singular-they tag and the closest I found (that was tagged - who knows there may be one out there tagged "grammar") was the related question I added in a comment.
    – ColleenV
    Nov 22, 2017 at 17:31
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    Now I've got to thinking even more, it seems to me Your spouse can come if they want is "okay", but not Your wife can come if they want. And I'm not sure how the former would play out in male-only context where it's assumed everyone in the audience is heterosexual. Nov 23, 2017 at 13:51

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