I found a teacher mix used third person singular and pronoun.

A simpler way to understand this is basically to receive an action. Okay? So when somebody gets punished, it means that someone else punishes them. It is used as a passive, but many people use "get" instead of "be".

where somebody obviously refers to a single person, so the use of "gets" makes sense, and then that teacher used a plural pronoun "them", does not match the former part. I guess that's because the teacher was trying to use a easier way to say he or she.

Is my understanding right? Is there a better solution?

  • 1
    They/them is not only plural, it can also be used as singular in some cases, particularly when speaking of a hypothetical person. See Singular they (Wikipedia)
    – Justin
    Commented Mar 9, 2020 at 12:36
  • @Justin Thank you so much. So, it is grammatical to say that, "someone gets beaten, so they get angry", right?
    – WXJ96163
    Commented Mar 9, 2020 at 12:45
  • 1
    Not just because it is easier, but also as a gender-neutral singular pronoun. Commented Mar 9, 2020 at 13:11
  • 1
    @WeatherVane Thank you. So, it is grammatical to say that, "an English teacher starts their lesson with ...", right?
    – WXJ96163
    Commented Mar 9, 2020 at 13:33
  • 1
    That is correct, the use is similar to the singular/plural you. Or, it might be phrased as "an English teacher starts the lesson with ..." Commented Mar 9, 2020 at 13:34

1 Answer 1


This is actually a case of using the "singular they" pronoun. Various people have been debating the correctness of using this for a very very long time, but it is generally considered fairly acceptable nowadays (even if it is not necessarily taught as being correct by some grammarians).

One thing that is confusing about "singular they" is that despite the fact that you are referring to a singular individual, because you are using the pronoun "they", the verb is still conjugated based on the conjugation rules for a subject of "they" (sometimes referred to as third-person plural conjugation), so you essentially use a plural-sounding verb conjugation, even for a singular subject.

So actually, what your teacher said is perfectly reasonable, and yes, actually, the sentence in your title is also grammatically correct, even though it seems a bit strange to mix "gets" and "get" for the same conceptual subject. This is because the conjugation of the verb is actually not technically based on the conceptual subject, but is actually based on which specific word is used for the subject of that clause. In the first case, the word is "someone" which is conjugated with third-person-singular, but in the second case, it is "they", which is conjugated with third-person-plural, even though it's actually referring to the same singular person (of unspecified gender).

Hopefully this made some sense.. This is one of those areas where some of the traditional rules of the language have been bent into a new shape by common modern usage, so some of the terms and explanations can be a bit confusing, too.

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