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Hypothetically, in the context of

-What's your favorite restaurant to eat food

-If they have food, I'll eat it" was said.

Would "they" be singular or plural?

1 Answer 1

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Yes.

Some who dislike the singular they might argue that in your sentence, they refers to the people who operate the restaurant. But in practice, they means the restaurant as an indivisible entity, not the collection of people who own, manage, and staff it.

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  • So would it be singular?
    – Toulouse
    Jan 19, 2020 at 1:34
  • Oh, sorry :-) I read your original question as , "Is they singular?" rather than "singular or plural." Though the answer is fuzzy, I'd rule it as singular because its antecedent is the singular noun "restaurant." Jan 19, 2020 at 1:49
  • Thank you Paul Tanenbaum
    – Toulouse
    Jan 19, 2020 at 1:51
  • They is the third person plural pronoun. It's plural by definition, and as you can see, it takes the third person plural verb form have. That's a grammatical notion. As a semantic matter, we can ask whether the pronoun's antecedent is singular or plural, i.e., does the pronoun refer to one person (in this case) or more than one. Ordinarily, pronouns and their antecedents agree in number, but that's not always the case. Since English doesn't have a good way to refer to noun of indeterminate gender -- "someone ... he"? or "someone ... she"? certainly not "someone ... it" -- we use they.
    – user105719
    Jan 19, 2020 at 2:59
  • Also, some transgendered people prefer the pronoun they to refer to themselves individually.
    – user105719
    Jan 19, 2020 at 3:00

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