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    #1

    Post Who does 'they' refer to?

    Dear friends,

    "You know, you can't take a hot air balloon from Taipei to Hong Kong two times a day, just like an airplane can. They'll probably have lots of people swimming their last little way to Hong Kong."

    Would you please correct any mistakes in the above sentences for me?
    "They'll probably have...", who does 'they' refer to? Why do we use 'they'?

    Thank you!

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    #2

    Re: Who does 'they' refer to?

    Mary and Bob went to the store. They went to the store.
    Q: Who are "they"? Who went to the store?
    A: Mary and Bob went.

    In this example. "they" are Mary and Bob. You may know their names, where they live, if they like fish, where they study, etc.

    Sometimes, however, the English language uses "they" to mean other people in general, not specific other people (such as Mary and Bob). When "they" refers to non-specific people, it is called an "INDEFINITE PRONOUN".

    Let's try some examples:

    1-They say it is going to rain tomorrow.
    Q-Who are "they"?
    A-We don't know their names, but people in general have told us they think it will rain tomorrow.

    2-I hear they are going to build a house on the hill.
    Q-Who are they?
    A-I haven't met the family, but various people in neighbor have said that there are plans to build a house on the hill. I don't recall when I was told that nor by whom, but it is something that I heard. Or did I read it in the newspaper?

    Now let's look at your text:
    They'll
    probably have lots of people swimming their last little way to Hong Kong.
    Q-Who are they?
    A-I have no idea. Maybe "they" are employees or owners of airlines. Perhaps they are government officials. I can't give you any personal information about them because I've never met them, and I don't even know their nationalities and jobs. "They" are just people somewhere.

    Changing the subject slightly, the function of indefinite pronouns is found in many European languages, not just English,but the function is expressed without the use of "they". In Taiwan do you see signs that say "English spoken"? You probably do. Who speaks English? Someone in the store probably speaks English. Do we know his age, where she lives, where they eat dinner on Sundays, etc.? No, but they exist and are real people. A Brazilian speaks Portuguese, correct? If he wants his potential customers to know they can speak Portuguese in his business, he will use a sign that reads "Fala-se portuguÍs". The literal meaning is "Portuguese speaks itself." A free translation is "Portuguese is spoken here." A sign in Spanish would say "Se habla espaŮol". Again, the literal translation is "Spanish speaks itself" but a better translation is "Spanish is spoken here."

    Have you heard, "You should see a doctor at least once a year"? Who is "you"? Is it Heidi? No, "you" is being used to mean "everyone". Do we know their names, if they have a cat, which books they like, etc.? No, we don't. In this example "you" is being used as an indefinite pronoun.

    Your English is quite good. Keep up the hard work!

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    #3

    Re: Who does 'they' refer to?

    Thank you, DRThomas, for your detailed explanation and your inspiration.

    Perhaps I should have explained that those sentences are what I heard from kind of an English explanation program, and I'm not sure that I heard them correctly. I listen to that paragraph several times, maybe it should be (I think):
    "You know, you can't take a hot air balloon from Taipei to Hong Kong two times a day, just like an airplane can. They probably have lots of people swimming their last little way to Hong Kong."

    Here the teacher said 'they' (assuming I didn't hear it wrong), even the word 'they' doesn't refer to a specific group of people, I still can't understand what that sentence (They probably have lots of people swimming their last little way to Hong Kong) mean. Does it mean that there will be lots of people swimming their last little way to Hong kong?

    thank you!
    Last edited by Heidi; 08-Dec-2010 at 02:15.

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    #4

    Re: Who does 'they' refer to?

    As it's unclear who they are, I'd say your interpretation is right.

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    #5

    Re: Who does 'they' refer to?

    'They will have you swimming'.

    = 'They' (as explained by D R Thomas) will bring about a situation in which people will be swimming.

    Examples (The person addressed has had a car accident):

    The doctor will have you up on your feet in no time.
    He will have you walking before then end of the month.

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    #6

    Re: Who does 'they' refer to?

    Hello Heidi,

    To me, the pronoun "they" refers to the people who operate/fly the hot air balloon.

    _____________________
    You know, you can't take a hot air balloon from Taipei to Hong Kong two times twice a day, just like an airplane can as you would take an airplane. They'll probably have lots of People would end up swimming their the last little way to Hong Kong.

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    #7

    Re: Who does 'they' refer to?

    Dear friends,

    I really appreciate all your help and your precious time. Thank you, my teachers.

    I think I have probably asked a wrong question. Now I find out that I couldn't understand the original sentence ("they probably have lots of people swimming the last little way to Hong Kong", would you please click the clip.mp3 file below and check out if I have listened to the teacher's explanation correctly?) because I didn't interpret the word 'have' correctly. I thought the word 'have' meant 'to posess something', like, I have a pencil, that's why I didn't understand that sentence's meaning. 'Have' really could mean 'to make someone do something, to cause someone to do something', so that sentence makes sense--they probably make lots of people swim in the ocean for a few miles to Hong Kong. Would you please tell me if I was right about it? Thank you!
    Attached Files Attached Files
    Last edited by Heidi; 09-Dec-2010 at 02:05.

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