- nominative plural of he, she, and it1.
- people in general: They say he's rich.
- (used with a singular indefinite pronoun or singular noun antecedent in place of the definite masculine he or the definite feminine she): Whoever is of voting age, whether they are interested in politics or not, should vote. A person may apply only if they are over 21. They have been an actor since childhood.
Origin of they
However, while use of they and its forms after singular indefinite pronouns or singular nouns of general personal reference or indefinite gender is common and generally acceptable, their use to refer to a single clearly specified, known, or named person is uncommon and likely to be noticed and criticized, as in this example: My hair stylist had their car stolen. Even so, use of they, their, and them is increasingly found in contexts where the antecedent is a gender-nonconforming individual or one who does not identify as male or female: Tyler indicated their preferences on their application.
And although they may be used as a singular pronoun, they still takes a plural verb, analogous to the use of "you are" to refer to one person: The student brought in a note to show why they were absent. See also he1.
- the male person or animal being discussed or last mentioned; that male.
- anyone (without reference to gender); that person: He who hesitates is lost.
- any male person or animal; a man: hes and shes.
- male (usually used in combination): a he-goat.
Origin of he1
Those who object to the generic use of he have developed various ways of avoiding it. One is to use he/she or she/he (or he or she or she or he ) or the appropriate case forms of these pairs: Everyone who agrees should raise his or her (or her or his or his/her or her/his ) right hand. Forms blending the feminine and masculine pronouns, as s/he, have not been widely adopted, probably because of confusion over how to say them.
Another solution is to change the antecedent pronoun or noun from singular to plural so that the plural pronouns they, their, and them can be used: All who agree should raise their right hands. All writers know that their first books are not likely to be bestsellers. See also they.
- (used to represent an inanimate thing understood, previously mentioned, about to be mentioned, or present in the immediate context): It has whitewall tires and red upholstery. You can't tell a book by its cover.
- (used to represent a person or animal understood, previously mentioned, or about to be mentioned whose gender is unknown or disregarded): It was the largest ever caught off the Florida coast. Who was it? It was John. The horse had its saddle on.
- (used to represent a group understood or previously mentioned): The judge told the jury it must decide two issues.
- (used to represent a concept or abstract idea understood or previously stated): It all started with Adam and Eve. He has been taught to believe it all his life.
- (used to represent an action or activity understood, previously mentioned, or about to be mentioned): Since you don't like it, you don't have to go skiing.
- (used as the impersonal subject of the verb to be, especially to refer to time, distance, or the weather): It is six o'clock. It is five miles to town. It was foggy.
- (used in statements expressing an action, condition, fact, circumstance, or situation without reference to an agent): If it weren't for Edna, I wouldn't go.
- (used in referring to something as the origin or cause of pain, pleasure, etc.): Where does it hurt? It looks bad for the candidate.
- (used in referring to a source not specifically named or described): It is said that love is blind.
- (used in referring to the general state of affairs; circumstances, fate, or life in general): How's it going with you?
- (used as an anticipatory subject or object to make a sentence more eloquent or suspenseful or to shift emphasis): It is necessary that you do your duty. It was a gun that he was carrying.
- Informal. (used instead of the pronoun its before a gerund): It having rained for only one hour didn't help the crops.
- (in children's games) the player called upon to perform some task, as, in tag, the one who must catch the other players.
- sex appeal.
- sexual intercourse.
- get with it, Slang. to become active or interested: He was warned to get with it or resign.
- have it, Informal.
- to love someone: She really has it bad for him.
- to possess the requisite abilities for something; be talented, adept, or proficient: In this business youeither have it or you don't.
- with it, Slang.
- aware of the latest fads, fashions, etc.; up-to-date.
- attentive or alert: I'm just not with it early in the morning.
- understanding or appreciative of something, as jazz.
- Carnival Slang.being a member of the carnival.
Origin of it1
- the female person or animal being discussed or last mentioned; that female.
- the woman: She who listens learns.
- anything considered, as by personification, to be feminine: spring, with all the memories she conjures up.
- a female person or animal.
- an object or device considered as female or feminine.
Origin of she
- refers to people or things other than the speaker or people addressedthey fight among themselves
- refers to unspecified people or people in general not including the speaker or people addressedin Australia they have Christmas in the summer
- not standard refers to an indefinite antecedent such as one, whoever, or anybodyif anyone objects, they can go
- an archaic word for those blessed are they that mourn
- high explosive
- His Eminence
- His (or Her) Excellency
- information technology
- refers to a female person or animalshe is a doctor; she's a fine mare
- refers to things personified as feminine, such as cars, ships, and nations
- Australian and NZ an informal word for it 1 (def. 3) she's apples; she'll be right
- a female person or animal
- (in combination)she-cat
- refers to a male person or animalhe looks interesting; he's a fine stallion
- refers to an indefinite antecedent such as one, whoever, or anybodyeverybody can do as he likes in this country
- refers to a person or animal of unknown or unspecified sexa member of the party may vote as he sees fit
- the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet (ה), transliterated as h
- an expression of amusement or derisionAlso: he-he!, hee-hee!
- refers to a nonhuman, animal, plant, or inanimate thing, or sometimes to a small babyit looks dangerous; give it a bone
- refers to an unspecified or implied antecedent or to a previous or understood clause, phrase, etcit is impossible; I knew it
- used to represent human life or experience either in totality or in respect of the present situationhow's it going?; I've had it; to brazen it out
- used as a formal subject (or object), referring to a following clause, phrase, or wordit helps to know the truth; I consider it dangerous to go on
- used in the nominative as the formal grammatical subject of impersonal verbs. When it functions absolutely in such sentences, not referring to any previous or following clause or phrase, the context is nearly always a description of the environment or of some physical sensationit is raining; it hurts
- (used as complement with be) informal the crucial or ultimate pointthe steering failed and I thought that was it
- (in children's games) the player whose turn it is to try to touch anotherCompare he 1 (def. 5b)
- sexual intercourse
- sex appeal
- informal a desirable quality or abilityhe's really got it
Word Origin and History for they
c.1200, from Old Norse þeir, originally masculine plural demonstrative pronoun, from Proto-Germanic *thai, nominative plural pronoun, from PIE *to- (see that). Gradually replaced Old English hi, hie, plurals of he, heo, hit (see he, she, it) by c.1400. Colloquial use for "anonymous people in authority" is attested from 1886.
Old English hit, neuter nominative and accusative of third person singular pronoun, from Proto-Germanic demonstrative base *khi- (cf. Old Frisian hit, Dutch het, Gothic hita "it"), from PIE *ko- "this" (see he). Used in place of any neuter noun, hence, as gender faded in Middle English, it took on the meaning "thing or animal spoken about before."
The h- was lost due to being in an unemphasized position, as in modern speech the h- in "give it to him," "ask her," "is only heard in the careful speech of the partially educated" [Weekley]. It "the sex act" is from 1610s; meaning "sex appeal (especially in a woman)" first attested 1904 in works of Rudyard Kipling, popularized 1927 as title of a book by Elinor Glyn, and by application of It Girl to silent-film star Clara Bow (1905-1965). In children's games, meaning "the one who must tag the others" is attested from 1842.
mid-12c., probably evolving from Old English seo, sio (accusative sie), fem. of demonstrative pronoun se "the," from PIE root *so- "this, that" (see the). The Old English word for "she" was heo, hio, however by 13c. the pronunciation of this had converged by phonetic evolution with he "he," which apparently led to the fem. demonstrative pronoun being used in place of the pronoun (cf. similar development in Dutch zij, German sie, Greek he, etc.). The original h- survives in her. A relic of the Old English pronoun is in Manchester-area dialectal oo "she." As a noun meaning "a female," she is attested from 1530s.
Old English he (see paradigm of Old English third person pronoun below), from Proto-Germanic *hi- (cf. Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Middle Dutch he, hi, Dutch hy, Old High German he), from PIE *ki-, variant of *ko-, the "this, here" (as opposed to "that, there") root (cf. Hittite ki "this," Greek ekeinos "that person," Old Church Slavonic si, Lithuanian šis "this"), and thus the source of the third person pronouns in Old English. The feminine, hio, was replaced in early Middle English by forms from other stems (see she), while the h- wore off Old English neuter hit to make modern it. The Proto-Germanic root also is the source of the first element in German heute "today," literally "the day" (cf. Old English heodæg).
|nom.||he||hit||heo, hio||hie, hi|
|acc.||hine||hit||hie, hi||hie, hi|
Pleonastic use with the noun ("Mistah Kurtz, he dead") is attested from late Old English. With animal words, meaning "male" (he-goat, etc.) from c.1300.
- The symbol for the elementhelium
- The symbol for helium.