How can the answer in the following test question be "it"?

Mr. Akagi was unable to buy tickets for the concert because it/they was sold out.

  • 29
    ...actually, no. You can say ...because it was sold out. That means the concert was "sold out", not the tickets. It's a stylistic choice which way you want to express things. Nov 26, 2022 at 14:41
  • 3
    @FumbleFingers - ++1. The game was sold out. The movie was sold out. The concert was sold out. The play was sold out. Nov 26, 2022 at 16:12
  • 12
    It's always "it was" (singular) or "they were" (plural). The rest of the sentence doesn't really matter.
    – Ouroborus
    Nov 27, 2022 at 8:07
  • 1
    @Ouroborus: No, that's not always so. I know at least one exception, "as it were". But I don't think that's a past tense - is is a subjunctive? Similarly, "if only it were possible".
    – MSalters
    Nov 28, 2022 at 14:44
  • 2
    @MSalters, yes, it's the subjunctive, where "were" is used regardless of the gender, number, or person of the subject. In the indicative, Ouroborus's statement is correct.
    – Alan
    Nov 28, 2022 at 17:10

6 Answers 6


In this context, "sold out" can be used to describe tickets or an event (in this case, the concert), and so either could be the antecedent of a pronoun after "because". However, the sentence has the verb "was" after the pronoun in question, which requires a singular subject, giving "it" rather than "they" as the correct answer.


"It" refers to the concert, not the tickets.

"Sold-out" is often used as a compound adjective to describe an event that has sold every ticket and there is no more capacity.

Example: The concert was sold out.


It is a combination of "it" and "was" - it is referring to the concert which is a singular item.

"The concert, it was sold out"

Was is used when the item it's being referred to is singular whereas were is used when something is plural.

"The tickets, they were sold out"

if there had been more than one concert then you could also use they/were

"The concerts, they were sold out"

meaning all the concerts were sold out.

In that sentence if you didn't have was then it could either be it was or they were and both sentences would make sense...

'Mr. Akagi was unable to buy tickets for the concert because they were sold out' (the tickets were sold out) 'Mr. Akagi was unable to buy tickets for the concert because it was sold out' (the concert was sold out)

  • 4
    Absolutely correct. The other answers all seem to miss that choosing the solution that matches the form of the verb is almost certainly the point of the question.
    – Eric Nolan
    Nov 28, 2022 at 11:32

Either "it" or "they" is valid here. You can say that the tickets are sold out, in which case "tickets" is plural so you should use "they". Or you can say that the concert is old out, in which case "concert" is singular so you should use "it".

It's probably more common to say that the concert is sold out than that the tickets are sold out, but either is valid and neither would strike a fluent English speaker as strange.

  • 14
    Hmmm. Well, you could if the verb concerned, which must agree with the subject, wasn't was. Nov 26, 2022 at 23:45
  • 4
    @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. Yes, of course the verb has to agree with the pronoun. "It was" or "they were".
    – Jay
    Nov 27, 2022 at 4:11
  • 4
    When people say "they were sold out" the "they" can be a reference to the ticket seller or vendor, rather than the actual tickets. "They were sold out of tickets" would not make sense if it were referring to the tickets, but it does if referring to the venue or seller.
    – barbecue
    Nov 27, 2022 at 16:23
  • 1
    @barbecue Yes, good point, third possible interpretation. If you said, "They were sold out of tickets", "they" presumably refers to either the venue or some third-party ticket seller. If you said, "The tickets were sold out", then you are talking about the tickets themselves.
    – Jay
    Nov 28, 2022 at 1:37

Language can be very variable.

"it was sold out" - correct, the concert was sold out.
"they was sold out" - wrong, should be "were"

"they were sold out" - correct, meaning the tickets were sold out.
"they were sold out" - correct, meaning the ticket sellers had sold all tickets.
"they were sold out" - correct, meaning the bands concert tickets were sold out.
"she was sold out" - correct, meaning the female artist's concert tickets were sold out.
"she was sold out" - correct, meaning that the female ticket seller whom Mr. Akagi called had sold all her tickets.


The version with "it was" is correct because "sold out" should refer to an event or seller, not to an item being sold. See for example definitions at Merriam-Webster and Collins.

having all available tickets or accommodations sold completely and especially in advance
also : of or relating to a sold-out event a sold-out crowd


(B1) If a performance, sports event, or other entertainment is sold out, all the tickets for it have been sold. The premiere on Monday is sold out.
(B2) If a shop is sold out of something, it has sold all of it that it had. The stores are sometimes sold out of certain groceries.

Neither of these are consistent with describing the tickets themselves as "sold out"; instead you would say "the tickets had all been sold".

  • 3
    I disagree with this, it's very common to describe an item itself as selling out - it's perfectly natural to say either that a concert/ticket vendor sold out, or that tickets for the concert sold out. See such headlines as "The PS5 Digital Edition is sold out at Best Buy." In cases where there are multiple vendors, this is the simplest way to describe the situation - you'd simply say that "PS5's are sold out", but not attempt to list every potential PS5 vendor as sold out. Nov 28, 2022 at 15:38
  • 1
    Tis the season - "Buy now before they're all sold out!". Yep 'sold out' definitely can and does refer to the item being sold.
    – mcalex
    Nov 28, 2022 at 17:52

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