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Thread: It or They

  1. #1
    learnslow is offline Newbie
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    Default It or They

    Please advise me on the correct usage.

    I am a bit confused about the use of "it and they" to refer to non living things. My understanding is that we use "they" to refer to more than one person and "it" to refer to one or more non living objects. Can I use "they" to refer to more than one one non living object? I tried to read about this in the grammar books, but could not find the answer under the chapter pronouns.

    The classes began in the morning.

    It began in the morning. OR They began in the morning.

    The alarms went off at 7AM

    It went off at 7AM. OR They went off at 7AM


    I would be very grateful for your help.

  2. #2
    Barb_D's Avatar
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    Default Re: It or They

    Welcome to Using English.

    You use "they" for plural nouns, living, non-living, or living, but not human.
    You use "it" for many living things - trees, animals that you don't feel affection for, coral reefs, etc.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  3. #3
    Gillnetter is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: It or They

    Quote Originally Posted by learnslow View Post
    Please advise me on the correct usage.

    I am a bit confused about the use of "it and they" to refer to non living things. My understanding is that we use "they" to refer to more than one person and "it" to refer to one or more non living objects. Can I use "they" to refer to more than one one non living object? I tried to read about this in the grammar books, but could not find the answer under the chapter pronouns.

    No. "It" refers to only one thing, not many.
    The classes began in the morning.
    They (if there is information on what "they" are before this sentence) began in the morning. For example, "I registered for five classes. They began last week". "Of all the classes, my favorite is science. It is an afternoon class".

    "it" is not used to refer to people. "I have a blue car. It is very fast". "they" can refer to people or objects - "All of my cars are fast. They are the fastest cars in town. Some of the other racers think my cars are too fast. They are just jealous".

    It began in the morning. OR They began in the morning.

    The alarms went off at 7AM

    It went off at 7AM ("alarms" means more than one alarm. "it" cannot be used here, use "they"). OR They went off at 7AM


    I would be very grateful for your help.
    Gil

  4. #4
    sergeyrais is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: It or They

    Quote Originally Posted by learnslow View Post
    Please advise me on the correct usage.

    I am a bit confused about the use of "it and they" to refer to non living things. My understanding is that we use "they" to refer to more than one person and "it" to refer to one or more non living objects. Can I use "they" to refer to more than one one non living object? I tried to read about this in the grammar books, but could not find the answer under the chapter pronouns.

    The classes began in the morning.

    It began in the morning. OR They began in the morning.

    The alarms went off at 7AM

    It went off at 7AM. OR They went off at 7AM


    I would be very grateful for your help.
    (not a teacher)
    I think substitution of "they" with "it" is impossible unless we use "it" in the meaning of "this".

  5. #5
    learnslow is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: It or They

    Thanks very much for the very helpful responses. So can I say that "it" is for singular and "they" for plural.

  6. #6
    learnslow is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: It or They

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    Welcome to Using English.

    You use "they" for plural nouns, living, non-living, or living, but not human.
    Thanks very much for the helpful reply. Can I just ask one more question about the usage of "they"?

    Rajeev and Rajesh opened the presents in the morning. They did not like any of the presents received.

    Here "they" is used to refer to two human beings. Is this correct usage when "they" is used to describe two human beings?
    Last edited by learnslow; 15-Dec-2012 at 09:22.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: It or They

    My comma misled you. I should have said living things that were not human. This is in addition to humans and non-living things.

    Whether the single form is he, she, or it, the plural form is they.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  8. #8
    learnslow is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: It or They

    Thanks very much.

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