Date: Fri, 22 Sep 1995 15:38:22 EDT
From: Larry Horn LHORN[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]YALEVM.CIS.YALE.EDU
Subject: copy-ed re web usage urrl (fwd)
Personally, I think that "they" should always take a plural
verb. Other languages that use pronouns interchangeably as
either singular or plural, depending on the context, always
conjugate the verb in the plural. E.g. "Vous" in French is
always conjugated the same way (root + "ez", e.g. "chantez"),
You don't need to go to other languages for examples. The
English pronoun "you" was originally plural only. Now it's
plural and singular, but the verb is still plural. I see no
reason to believe that "they" will behave differently if it
becomes standard as a singular. "They is" doesn't seem to be
The only change I think likely with singular "they" is the
development of the reflexive "themself" (versus "themselves"
in the plural), parallel to "yourself".
Not just _themself_ and _yourself (sg.)_ but also _ourself_, for reflexives
whose antecedent is the editorial or royal _we_: "We do not consider ourself
above the law". Here again, verb agreement is obviously plural.