I went to the local shop to get some milk but they'd sold out.
The above sentence is an example under the entry "sell out" in Cambridge International Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs.
What does they refer to?
Thank you very much for your reply.
So for example:
"I like this shop. They make really nice cakes."
You use "they" because you are referring to the group of people who make up the shop.
"Could you tell me where the shop is?"
"It is over there."
You use the word "it" because you are referring to building itself, rather than the people who make up the organisation "the shop."
The same would apply to other entities that are similar. So for example:
"China is doing really well in these Olympics."
"They are doing really well in these Olympics"
You use the word "they" because who is doing really well at the Olympics? Not the physical country China, but the people who make up the team.
"China is a really beautifiul country."
"It is a really beautiful country."
You use the word "it" because you are not referring to any people, you are referring to the physical landscape.
Anything which refers to the people involved in any particular entity uses the word "they." Anything that refers to the entity itself uses the word "it".
When making a statement about an organisation, it is generally acceptable to use either, although "they" focuses more on the people.
So for example:
"It is a very good charity."
"They are a very good charity."
Both are acceptable in statements of this kind. However, once you start to use verbs other than "to be" you will generally use the more personal "they" because organisations does commit actions, the people who make up the organisations commit actions.
So for example, using the verb "to do" instead:
"The charity does a lot of good work."
"They do a lot of good work."
"It does a lot of good work."
Hope that helps.
Not a teacher.