It vs. They

'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!

How to use "It" and "They" in English

What are their main differences?

'It' and 'they' are both personal pronouns in English. Their most obvious difference is that 'it' is a singular pronoun, while 'they' is plural.

'They'

'They' is a subject pronoun used to refer to two or more people or things that have already been mentioned or are already known. We can use 'they' to refer to:

  • People
  • Non-human but living things (animals, plants, reefs, etc.)
  • Non-human and non-living things (books, chairs, etc.)

Let us take a look at some exampels:

They don't like to be discriminated.

I hope they come back soon.

Plural-Only Nouns

When referring to singular objects that are grammatically plural, such as pants, glasses, or trousers, the pronoun 'they' must be used instead of 'it'. Pay attention to the examples:

I bought a pair of pants. They're black.

Tip!

Although using 'it' to refer to these nouns is considered grammatically incorrect, it might sometimes be used in everyday speech.

I bought a pair of pants. It's black.

It is grammatically incorrect, but used anyway.

Singular 'They'

Due to a recent revolutionary awareness about gender, modern English has adapted to the use of 'they' as a singular pronoun when referring to an individual without specifying their gender. This avoids the use of gendered pronouns such as 'he/she' or 's(he)' or 'he or she'. Take a look at the examples:

Every child deserves access to quality education. They must have a chance to follow their dreams.

'It'

'It' is both a subject pronoun and an object pronoun. We can use 'it' to refer to:

  • A Non-human but living thing (animal, plant, tree, etc.)
  • A Non-human and non-living thing (book, chair, etc.)

Warning!

Keep in mind that unlike 'they', 'it' cannot be used to refer to people. One exception to this rule is when talking about a fetus whose gender is not known yet.

Referring to Singular Nouns

When referring to a single object or thing, 'it' is used instead of 'they'. For example:

I watched the latest Lord of the Rings movie. It was amazing.

She loves ice cream. It's her favorite dessert.

Subject and Object

'It' can be used as both the subject and object of a sentence when the real subject or object is introduced earlier or later in the context. Pay attention to the examples:

I bought a new car. It's a black SUV. ('it' as a subject)

I found it in the garden. ('it' as an object)

Dummy Subject

'It' can also be used as a dummy subject of a sentence when you are talking about weather, time, distance, etc. For example:

Is it still raining?

It's half past five.

Collective Nouns

If you want to refer to collective nouns like companies, teams, parties, etc. either 'it' or 'they' can be used. Although these entities are made up of multiple people, using 'it' is also grammatically correct if we want to refer to the entity as a single unit. Compare the examples:

McDonald's have added a new snack to their menu. They're advertising it nonstop.

When referring to a collective noun by 'they' we are referring to the people working in there.

McDonald's has added a new snack to its menu. It's advertising it nonstop.

When referring to a collective noun by 'it' we are referring to the company or organization as a unit.

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