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What 'they' really means and why you need to start using it now

Have you ever been asked to refer to someone as 'they’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’? Honestly, it’s not hard and you should simply go along with it. If you’re wondering as to why, though, there’s definitely more to tell.

Using the singular 'they' has been going on for centuries. It can refer to just one person or a group. Now, it is being used as the English language’s answer to the gender-nonbinary pronoun.

‘They' can be a pronoun for one individual?
Absolutely! Your teacher in elementary school taught you that pronouns help you create better flow in a sentence. In everyday conversation, we often substitute people’s names, places, and things with he, she, you, and even it, to make communication smoother.

Dropping the full noun form allows you to save time, especially when the subject matter is already known. Singular pronouns refer to singular nouns, just one girl or just one shop. I am going to make lemon curd tarts for dessert, is a sentence referring to just you. You know for sure because the pronoun used is singular. And now we’re jealous of those tarts…

‘They’ is typically used when we’re talking about a whole bunch of things. Like all of the lemons you’ll need for your curd, they’re quite sour. It’s most often used as a plural pronoun for things, people, or locations.

‘They’ can also refer to singular nouns! ‘They’ has been the main option for a gender-neutral pronoun further back than Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies. Subbing in for he or she when you don’t know − or, frankly, need to know − a person’s gender.
So, what does ‘they’ really mean?
‘They’ cuts the awkward chit-chat. It gives people who need a pronoun outside of the masculine and feminine an option we already use in everyday English. Paired with ‘their’ for possessive, ‘they’ is an inclusive language option for the more mindful.

Think of the last time you introduced a new friend to your circle. The first question your current friends might ask could be “What do they do?” Sure, it’s not a deep question, but it doesn’t assign a gender to your new acquaintance, either.

Not just about grammar, ‘they’ is singular & nonbinary
The words ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are not binary, so why should pronouns be. If we’re to truly allow people to be who they are in the workplace then we have to allow for fluidity in the language we use. Switching to ‘they’ isn’t a tough choice, it’s all about being inclusive and more mindful.

By respecting an individual’s preferred pronouns, you’re openly acknowledging that you accept them as they come to you. For many in the LGBTQ+ (that’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, question, plus other diverse sexual orientations) it is more than they’ve received from their families.

Stay up to date with changes and shifts in gender and sexuality terms. The next time you’re asked to use ‘they’ in singular you won’t skip a beat.
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