AE 390 – Grammar in Plain English: The Singular They

Learn Australian English in this Grammar In Plain English episode of Aussie English I teach you how to use the singular they like a native English speaker.

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AE 390 – Grammar in Plain English:

The Singular They

G’day guys, and a welcome to this episode of Aussie English, Grammar In Plain English. No more jargon, guys. No more jargon. So, today we’re going to be talking about all the different ways that we can use the word ‘they‘, as well as: their, theirs, themself, etc. as a singular pronoun, guys, as a way of referring to one person, okay?

So, we use ‘they‘ to refer back to a pronoun words such as:

  • Someone,
  • Anyone,
  • Everyone,
  • No one.

And the same goes for noun phrases:

  • Any employ,
  • Every student,
  • Which person.

Some examples:

  • Everyone tried their hardest.
  • Someone left their umbrella here.
  • There’s someone on the phone and I have no idea who they are.

Note: you have to use the plural verb after ‘they‘.

  • They are
  • They do
  • They think
  • They hope

You’ll never say:

  • They is
  • They hopes
  • They does



  • Someone’s calling you and they hope they’re not wasting their time.
  • I know someone who’s got a crush on you, but they haven’t told me much.
  • There’s someone waiting outside, but they don’t leave soon.

Use ‘they‘ when referring back to nouns of different genders when joined by ‘or‘.

  • Pete or Kelly think they can do it.
  • Out of Matt or Jane, one of them thinks they‘ll get to the party.

Use ‘they‘ to refer back to an individual of unknown gender or whose gender you don’t want to reveal.

  • My friend said they‘d be in Melbourne this week.
  • Do you know anyone who would think they‘re a good applicant for this job?
  • Someone donated money, but they wish to remain anonymous.

When not to use ‘they‘.

Don’t use ‘they‘ when the context makes it obvious which gender you’re talking about.


  • A man came over yesterday and they wanted to see you. You would say: A man came over yesterday and HE wanted to see you.
  • Do you know this girl? They‘re waiting outside. Nope. Do you know this girl? SHE‘s waiting outside.

The same happens with a named individual, because more often than not if you know their name you’re going to know their gender.

  • Jane thinks they can do it. Nope. Jane thinks SHE can do it.
  • Pete thinks they‘ll arrive late. Nope. Pete thinks HE‘ll arrive late.

If you use ‘they‘ in this situation, you make it sound like Jane or Pete is thinking about or talking about ‘other people’.

  • Jane thinks they (those people).
  • Pete thinks are they (those people).

To make sure that you know that he’s talking about himself or she’s talking about herself, you have to say ‘he‘ or ‘she‘.

A special note on ‘themself‘ or ‘themselves‘.

Apparently, you should probably use ‘themself‘ in these situations where they are thinking of themself, okay? When it’s sort of reflexive.

However, because native speakers are so used to hearing ‘themselves‘ in the plural, even when we use it in the singular form we’re going to hear or we’re going to say:

They think of ‘themselves‘, instead of, they think of ‘themself‘.

Use either. It doesn’t really matter, guys.

Anyway, that’s it for this video, guys. I hope it helps. Start using ‘they‘, because this is a small tip that will make you sound a lot more like an English native speaker. I’ll see you in the next episode, guys.

Peace out.

G’day, guys. Pete here. Just a quick message. If you want the bonus content for today’s video, make sure that you come over to, click enroll here, and you will get access to all the bonus content for today’s video as well as all of the podcast expression episodes and interview episodes. So, if you’d like to upgrade your English, jump over to, enroll, and start levelling up your English. I’ll see you in class.

I know, guys. What the fuck?!

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