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Everybody can not be intelligent, can they?

Everything is bright and beautiful, isn't it?

Why first sentence takes 'they' (plural) But second one takes 'it' (singular)?

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1 Answer 1

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Most indefinite pronouns (everybody, everything, nothing, nobody etc.) are singular; hence subject–verb agreement requires that we use a singular verb with them, and other pronouns pertaining to them must be singular. So why "they" in

Everybody can not be intelligent, can they?

The answer is that this "they" isn't plural. It's called singular they:

Singular they is the use in English of the pronoun they, or its inflected or derivative forms, such as them, their, or themselves, as a "pronoun that is neutral between masculine and feminine", to refer to a single person or an antecedent that is grammatically singular.

Simply put, a writer can write "I don't know them" rather than "I don't know him/her".

If you're interested and want to read more, these can make for a useful reading:

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  • thank you so much but why the second sentence takes 'it' while everything is also a singular indefinite pronoun.
    – user27855
    Commented Dec 20, 2015 at 8:42
  • @Ravi you need to elaborate on what your question is. Isn't there an agreement between the counts of 'it' and 'everything', as you pointed out?
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Dec 20, 2015 at 20:52

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