In the following, is it correct to use the plural pronoun they (along with the plural verb) to refer back to Japan?

Will Japan get back up if they experience another recession?

  • I suspect when people use they for a country it means they are thinking of the people rather than the country. You could argue whether it is the country or its inhabitants which experiences a recession.
    – mdewey
    Jul 28, 2021 at 11:21
  • No, in formal writing I would only use "it".
    – Lambie
    Nov 27, 2021 at 19:05

2 Answers 2


I think a country can be treated singular or plural or even feminine gender.

If we are talking about a country, we usually use the singular number and the pronoun becomes she or it.

If we are talking about the government, we may use the plural number. So we can use the pronoun they.

Will Japan get back up if they experience another recession?

As per the link we can say:

Japan are a great power in the world.

The sentence is not wrong. so they in the above sentence is not wrong.

In the sentence, we are talking about the government of Japan. So it is treated as plural and the pronoun "they" is used.

The verb also takes the plural form

I herewith enclose two links that clarify your question.



  • Historically, Germany was "The Fatherland" and Russia "The Motherland" - so masculine pronouns are not unheard of.
    – Davo
    Sep 19, 2019 at 12:19
  • @Davo. A good point to learn from you Sep 19, 2019 at 12:23
  • The page you linked to does not discuss pronouns.
    – Apollyon
    Sep 19, 2019 at 12:46
  • What complicates this issue is the names of some countries. For example, most people are likely to use the plural form after such countries as ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA, BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA, MARSHALL ISLANDS and numerous other examples in which the country's name comprises two or more elements. Sep 19, 2019 at 13:55
  • Let us limit the scope of the question to single-element country names. Would you think "they" is a correct pronoun for names like "Japan"?
    – Apollyon
    Sep 19, 2019 at 14:12

Use "it" in most contexts.

Use "they" only when "Japan" is standing in for "a group of Japanese people or things".

Japan are ahead at halftime in the football match. They have scored twice!

Here "Japan" means "the Japanese national football team", which is a group of people, and so may be treated as plural.

In most other contexts use "it" and "is". In your example you should use "it".

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