[Mailman-i18n] was vs. they

Ben Gertzfield che at debian.org
Thu Jul 10 11:07:44 EDT 2003

DIG wrote:

>There is a fragment of text (in $CVS/mailman/messages/ru/LC_MESSAGES):
>,--- [ mailman.po ] ---
>| #: Mailman/Deliverer.py:158
>| msgid ""
>| "%(address)s was invited to a different mailing\n"
>| "list, but in a deliberate malicious attempt they tried to confirm the\n"
>| "invitation to your list.  We just thought you'd like to know.  No further\n"
>| "action by you is required."
>`----[ ] ---
>Is this correct: ``address was invited'' and ``they tried''?
>                           ^^^- singular       ^^^^- plural

This is not technically correct English, but it's a very common usage. 

Since there is no gender-neutral way in English to refer to a person 
whose gender is unknown (in this case, the owner of the email address) 
the word "they" in a singular sense is often used for this purpose.

"He or she" (which is more correct) sounds awkward in many cases, and 
the singular pronoun "it" is not used to refer to people.

To be more correct, "he or she" should probably be used in the original 
English above, but the original sentence is completely understandable to 
this native English speaker.

You can translate it as a gender-neutral singular pronoun like "it" if 
your language uses that for people, or use the equivalent of "he or she".


More information about the Mailman-i18n mailing list