There's one thing I'm confused about the use of singular they/them for a non-binary person. Is it:

  1. "Jake is my friend, and they are great."


  1. "Jake are my friend, and they are great."

The former sounds correct to me, but I don't know where to find confirmation that it is.

  • When I hear this I think another object was added to the conversation and/or two things are being spoken about. I want to ask "what are great?" or "Who else is great?"
    – LUser
    Mar 2, 2021 at 9:53

3 Answers 3


Singular "they" works in exactly the same way when used to refer to a nonbinary person as it does when used to refer to a person of unknown gender. In other words, "they" is used with plural verbs like "are", "have", etc, but "is" is used elsewhere:

If anyone has lost their wallet, they are advised to notify reception.

The rule isn't specific to nonbinary people. The scope of plural agreement is limited to the pronoun "they" (as well as to actual plurals, and so on).

So the correct sentence is:

Jake is my friend, and they are great.

  • 26
    Note, that this is exactly parallel to you, which has been used in the singular even longer than they (1275 vs 1375 in the OED). At the time you started to be used in the singular, the true singular was thou art, but nobody ever used you art.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 27, 2021 at 16:53
  • 6
    @ColinFine "They" has gone through a number of changes over the history of the English language. Until several decades ago (in the 70s? 80s?), "I love my wife. They are wonderful." was not correct (even today, many people think it sounds wrong, although it is not grammatically incorrect). The change in the 1300s applied only to usages like "When one uses the restroom, they should wash their hands". The usage typically meant today when people say "they is a gender indefinite singular pronoun" actually is relatively recent and does not go back to the 1300s.
    – forest
    Feb 28, 2021 at 4:57
  • 1
    @forest Your example is a gender indefinite singular pronoun, so I have no idea what it's demonstrating. Feb 28, 2021 at 6:52
  • 2
    @forest But that is simple. Feb 28, 2021 at 7:50
  • 4
    @forest: it's true that singular they has had its use extended in recent decades. But that is not what the peevers typically say: they generally deny that it exists in English at all,
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 28, 2021 at 14:07

If Jake is your non-binary friend then you should ask Jake about this. Many people, including many non-binary people, don’t want to stand out and attract attention all the time. Jake might prefer you saying “Jake is my friend, and he is great”. Then Jake might not, that’s why you ask.

Whatever pronoun you use, Jake is one person. On the other hand, the third person singular “they”, like the second person singular “you”, is used with plural. So if you want to use “they”, the correct way is “Jake is my friend, and they are great”.


Both examples are simply wrong.

"Jake is my friend and Jake is great" is what you need…

Broadly, "singular plural" is today much more a political than a linguistic subject… as your own example shows.

  • 12
    No, this answer is wrong. Thy politicians might be squabbling about this, but Stack Exchange is an international forum, and “singular they” has been attested prior to the wholly ungrammatical “singular you”. So it's “thine own example”, thank thee very much.
    – wizzwizz4
    Feb 28, 2021 at 21:40
  • 8
    In fact, I'm betting thou hast “they” as generic singular in thine own vocabulary, and hast used it often.
    – wizzwizz4
    Feb 28, 2021 at 21:58
  • I remember the great RNB politician Mario Winans, in his speech (some say it is a song) named "I don't wanna know" using this political "singular they" in the line "Somebody said they saw you"... Mar 1, 2021 at 7:38
  • @wizzwizz4 Ho ho. "Singular they" attested by you now isn't about "singular you"… though rightly bringing that up shows how most of the people can get things wrong most of the time, and still claim they're "right." "Somebody said they saw you" is a fine example. Winans' wording could be correct if it meant "a person or persons unknown". I suggest the audience should assume that even if "somebody" isn't specifically identified, that one's gender is known, which makes the phrase wrong. This boils down to whether you can conjugate "to be", showing the use of "they" in all tenses? Do try! Mar 2, 2021 at 2:40
  • I forgot to mention, none of what either of you Posted has anything to do with binary/non-binary persons. Mar 2, 2021 at 2:42

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