I guessed the following sentence would be correct, but there are many versions of that phrase. Why?

Everyone puts his hands up very slowly and…

It seems clear we need to say "puts his hands up" because of "everyone", or "puts their hands up" if we want to emphasize a gender neutrality. But I'm seeing "Everyone put your hands up..." (Link)on the internet. Why "put" if it was said in present? Why "your"? Could you explain it, please?

P.S. I have an idea. If "Everyone" is only a form of adress after that we use "put" as a command. Then, a phrase "Everyone, put your hands up" seems logical.

Which version would be idiomatic in the context of a robbery? The following one? Right?

Everyone, put your hands up very slowly and…

  • 1
    What you said after "P.S." is correct and "Everyone(,) put your hands up!" (with or without the comma) is probably the most idiomatic form of this beloved command. However, "Everyone put their hands up!" (comma disfavored) also works. I'm not sure why - I just know that it sounds ok to me, like I've heard it plenty before. Perhaps someone else can explain the grammar at work. You'll see that despite being a command, the "their" is phrased in the third person.
    – cruthers
    Jul 21, 2022 at 22:26

2 Answers 2


"Everyone, put your hands up" is an imperative sentence, which means that it has an implicit subject of "you" (so you don't see or use "you" before the verb but you act as if it was there). This means:

  • The verb conjugates to match that: "[you] put..."
  • The pronouns for the person or people being commanded are you/your/yours/yourself/yourselves. For example, the imperative to tell a man to put handcuffs on himself is "cuff yourself".
  • "Everyone" is not the subject but a vocative. That's why there's a comma there, when a subject wouldn't have a comma after it. Also, you can move "everyone" around (to the end of the sentence) or you can remove it and still have a perfectly idiomatic sentence: "Put your hands up!" or "Put your hands up, everyone!"

"Everyone puts his hands up" is an indicative statement. It is a simple present sentence, and so the meaning is rather rare. It is commentary. The speaker is describing events as they happen.

"Everyone! Put your hands up!" is an imperative. There is a reduced phrase, some kind of vocative, calling for everyone's attention "Everyone!". Then there is an imperative sentence with the implied subject "you". Notice my punctuation. This is two utterances, not one.

Now sometimes, a simple present indicative is used as a kind of imperative. The implication is "I have such total control of you that my description of an event is sufficient to make it happen". I am reminded of a scene in the film "Silence of the Lambs", in which the character "Buffalo Bill" says to a girl that he has imprisoned "It puts the lotion on its skin". Bill is dehumanising his victim by using "it" and by using the simple present - it means "I have total control".

So, a bank robber might say "Everyone puts their hands up" to mean "I have total control (because I have a gun) Whatever I say will happen." It is not the sort of grammar that an English Learner needs to learn to use!


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