I read an article in which I found the following line:

It was returned to the open market when ownership expired, and bought by a member of the public.

To my mind, they want to convey that some person has bought it. But then, in the following sentence, 'they contacted the firm' is written, which is probably written for a member of public:

Thankfully for Microsoft, they had good intentions and immediately contacted the firm and arranged to hand it over.

My questions is- What is the member of the public here? Is it the common man or someone from the firm?

  • 1
    As a footnote, that's a very funny article you found!
    – J.R.
    Oct 3, 2015 at 10:07

1 Answer 1


A member of the public indeed refers to a "common person," as your intuition says.

I'll clarify Sentence 2 for you:

Thankfully for Microsoft, they [i.e., this member of the public] had good intentions and immediately contacted the firm [i.e., Microsoft] and arranged to hand it over.

The sentence may be confusing, because the writer is using what is often considered a plural pronoun (they) to refer to a single person (the "member of the public"). Presumably, this was done to avoid assigning gender, since it may not be known if this individual was a man or a woman. This usage of they is not uncommon, and is referred to as the singular they.

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