A: What’s there behind the door?

B: They are two dogs.

Does B’s response sound acceptable?

  • details please what is your doubt about this conversation?
    – James K
    Apr 10 at 13:47
  • I am wondering whether both “there are two dogs” and “they are two dogs” are both acceptable. Apr 10 at 13:50
  • There are. not they are. They are boys, not girls. There are boys in the classroom. Surely, those are different in your language?
    – Lambie
    Apr 10 at 19:32
  • I agree with others saying this doesn't work. However, similar cases do arise: "Who wrote this book?" "She's a Finnish botanist who's done a lot of work with etc etc…" I can't really put my finger on why this is any different from the example, but maybe someone else can. Apr 10 at 23:42
  • It might be marginally acceptable if the door was made of glass, possibly translucent glass of the sort used in toilet doors, and A could see there was some kind of animal but didn't know exactly what. I'm guessing that is not the precise scenario intended here.
    – Stuart F
    Apr 11 at 16:15

2 Answers 2


No. It is not acceptable. The pronoun "They" is missing a reference.

The answer tells us that "They" are "two dogs". For that to make sense then the person must not know this information. So the reference of "They" isn't "two dogs". There is nothing else that "they" could refer to. This means that "They" has no reference, and that is a mistake.

They are two dogs" would be an answer to "What are those animals over there?" In which case, "they" is a reference to "those animals".

The simple way to answer this question is with a noun phrase "Two dogs". You don't need a subject and a sentence. If required then use the dummy subject, "There are two dogs."


I would say "There are two dogs". If the "there" was missing in the question then "they" might work.

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