I asked this question some weeks ago. I have settled on using they/them But using they/them singular sounds weird and grammatically incorrect. IE:

They is struggling in school

Compared to the plural

They are struggling in school

Even Grammarly suggests it's wrong. How do I use they/them on non-binary singular nouns?

2 Answers 2


Once upon a time, the word "you" was plural, or formal, like "vous" in French. "Thou" was the everyday singular word, though it didn't go with "is", but that's another story. Over time, "you" gained a singular meaning but the verbs did not change. Consider:

You are asking about what verbs to use with singular they

That sentence has "are" in it. But it is singular you. Did you even notice until I pointed it out?

Stop thinking that "are" is a plural verb. In "you are asking" it is a singular verb. A normal and everyday one, for that matter. And so in "I am worried about Chris. They are really struggling in school" it is also a singular verb. It just is. Do not write "they is" -- it is as wrong as "you is" and that's why you're seeing it flagged by your tools.

[Random arguments about it being confusing if you just use a "they are" sentence out of the blue are of no interest to me. Precisely the same argument applies to not knowing who "he" refers to if there was no previous mention of a person, or of not knowing if "you" means just one person or a group. Further, in English "we" is ambiguous about whether it includes the person being spoken to or not. All this ambiguity is part of pronouns and we deal with it. This question is about whether "they are" is plural or singular and comments bringing up ambiguity belong somewhere else.]

  • And the only part that might become singular would be themself instead of themselves when referring to a single person/entity. Jun 27, 2022 at 16:04

Everywhere I've seen "they" used as a gender-neutral personal pronoun, numbered words and phrases associated are used in plural, even if it there's a single subject and it seems references ought to be singlular.

"I know a really attractive ace, but as you might expect, they don't see me the way I want." In this case, I'm talking about a single person, but using plural verbs to agree with "they" ("they don't" vs. "they doesn't"). This follows a long-standing precedent in English when referring to a person whose gender is uncertain (for instance, you know someone has passed because you see tracks, but you can't tell gender from tracks -- size and shoe design only); you'd use "they" and plural usage, even if you're certain there was only one.

  • How about > they is Grammarly displays as wrong
    – Coder2195
    May 12, 2021 at 15:58
  • 1
    That's exactly what I'm saying -- I've never seen an authoritative example of using singular verbs or phrases with "they" -- even if "they" refers to a known-to-be singular subject.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    May 12, 2021 at 16:05
  • Hmm then how do I express non-binary people
    – Coder2195
    May 12, 2021 at 16:06
  • 1
    Just as in my example above. If you're using "they" use plural, even if they're singular.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    May 12, 2021 at 16:07
  • 1
    actually, "are" can be a singular verb. See my answer. Once you realize this, any confusion disappears. It's just not the case that "are" is always plural. May 12, 2021 at 20:46

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