I want a new dog.” (direct speech)

They said they wanted a new dog. (1)(reported speech)

question: why (I) is changed to (they) while the speaker is single isn't it?

  • What is the context of this question? Are these quotes from somewhere? Why do you think the sentences are even related to each other? please provide source information and context. Commented Jun 2, 2019 at 18:52

1 Answer 1


Because "they" has been used as a gender neutral singular pronoun since at least 1375.

There are people, still, who think there is something wrong with using it this way. For some reason, those people don't seem to have any problem using "you" as a singular. It's true that this goes back a bit further - recorded in the OED from 1250. Perhaps the people who object are stuck in the fourteenth century.

  • I am one of those who object to "singular they". I am well aware that it has a long history, and cannot be called 'wrong" on those grounds, and that it has increased in usage in recent years, ans so cannot be called wrong in descriptive terms. None the less, I think it contributes to confusion and is poor style, and I will not use it in my writing, and I advise others to avoid it. It can always be avoided by using "he or she" and often by rewriting. Commented Jun 2, 2019 at 16:40
  • 1
    Everybody has their opinions. I find "he or she" unwieldy, and much worse style than "they".
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jun 2, 2019 at 18:27

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