How Do We Choose?
'It' and 'they' are both personal pronouns. If you want to know what are their uses and functions under different circumstances, don't waste another second!
It vs. They
Main Similarity and Difference
'It' and 'they' are both personal pronouns in English. Their most obvious difference is that 'it' is a singular pronoun and 'they' is a plural one.
When Can We Use 'They'?
We can use 'they' to refer to:
- Non-human but living things (like plants, reefs etc.)
- Non-human and non-living objects (books, chairs, etc.)
When Can We Use 'It'?
We can use 'it' to refer to:
- A Non-human but living thing (like plant, tree, etc.)
- A Non-human and non-living object (book, chair, etc.)
Referring to One Thing
If you want to refer to only ONE thing, don’t use 'they'. Use 'it'.
For nouns that always come in plural but they are actually one thing, for instance, pants, glasses, trousers etc. do not use it. You should use 'they.'
Although, using 'it' for these special nouns is considered wrong, but you might hear someone saying a sentence like:
It is grammatically wrong, but used anyway.
Collective Nouns (Company Names...)
If you want to refer to Company names like Microsoft or McDonalds, you might think, since companies are made of up more than one person, the correct choice is 'they'. But that is a common mistake. Use 'it', not 'they'.
Now, look at these examples:
The second part of the sentence is incorrect. Because 'they', a plural pronoun, is referring to 'a great restaurant', a singular noun phrase. So, the correct version would be:
So, keep this rule in mind: for all collective nouns, you must use 'it' not 'they'. Unless on a specific context that you want to mention the people working at a company, army etc. Some examples of the collective nouns are:
Nowadays, due to the new revolutionary awareness about gender, in modern English, if we want to refer to only one person, but we do not want to or don’t know the gender, instead of using 'he/she' or 's(he)' or 'he or she', we simply can use 'they'.