Can I use "they" to refer to the singular "population"?

An aging population can heavily strain public health systems, a drawback that far outweighs any potential benefits they may bring, such as the value their wealth of work experience can add to the workforce.

I wrote the text.

  • 1
    This isn't a "singular they" usage. It's just blurring the distinction between the singular and plural referents, which I think is rather clumsy for a formal context. As a Brit I'm usually happy with for words like couple, pair, police, company to have "flexible" plurality, but Americans are more likely to insist all words like that (and by implication, a population) should always be treated as syntactically singular, so they might have stronger opinions. Commented Mar 21 at 11:29
  • Are you saying that an aging population brings health benefits? That seems like an odd thing to say. The sentence is simply off. However, the aging population can be they. "they" is fine as a pronoun but the sentence needs fixing. And that is in all Englishes.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 21 at 13:56
  • You can use either, but normally "it" when it's considered as a single entity (the population as a whole) and "their" for the individual members. Here it's the individual members who have work experience.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Mar 21 at 15:22
  • Does this answer your question? Doubt while using collective nouns Commented Mar 21 at 16:16
  • See also style.mla.org/verbs-with-collective-nouns for a good explanation Commented Mar 21 at 16:17

1 Answer 1


"An aging population" is a noun phrase that refers to a specific group of people or individuals who are advancing in age within a particular society or population. Since it is referring to multiple entities collectively, they is the natural choice of pronoun.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .