everybody sees / they see

toway

Senior Member
Russian
I have just seen a slogan that makes me curious about how to use plural
and singular in the same sentence:
Everybody sees what they want to see.
I can't understand whether it is correct sentence or not so I hope
somebody will help me.
 
  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Everybody is singular, but may refer to either gender. We don't have a singular pronoun that refers to either gender. If we were going follow 'everybody' with a singular pronoun in the second part, we would have to say the following, which seems clumsy.

    Everybody sees what she or he wants to see.


    On the other hand, they does not specify gender. We commonly use 'they' in contexts like this, where we need a pronoun that does not specify gender. Because 'they' is plural, we follow it with the plural form of the verb, even though we are referring to one person. :)

    For a fuller discussion, see: If someone takes ... 'they' will .... ['they' for singular]
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    [Side comment removed: DonnyB - moderator]

    Everybody sees...the sky
    subject.....verb....object

    Everybody.. sees ...what they want to see.
    subject.......verb........... object


    Now, looking at the object:
    what........ they... want to see.
    object.... subject....verb

    You see your example has two subjects within it

    Everybody sees

    and

    what they want to see

    each has a verb and each verb agrees with its own subject.

    John sees the same thing as David and Mary see
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    This is a grammatical inconsistency, as the verb number has indeed changed from one clause to the next, but it is not unusual to do this in order to avoid "sexist" language [e.g., "what he wants...."].
     

    toway

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Cagey, I don't understand why soncentrate on gender when
    the sentence doesn't refers to particular one.
    The subject of this sentense is not women or men, I think this is human.
    Also my question was mostly about possibility of combination plural and singular in the same phrase.
     

    toway

    Senior Member
    Russian
    PaulQ,
    your example is not absolutely useful, because:

    John sees the same thing as David and Mary see.=>There is no question, because John is not equal David and Mary.
    Everybody sees what they want to see.=>Everybody is equal they so the initial question remains the same.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Hmmm... to be honest I don't think that makes much difference to my worked example at #3.

    They can indicate plural or singular but always takes a plural verb. In your example everybody and they are both singular. See Cagey's post at #2.

    "A small child comes to me and they ask for money."

    they = "either he or she"
     

    toway

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Thank you all. Now I seem to realize that everybody=they in this case and
    they are both singular in this kind of centences,
    but require different types of verbs (everybody wants, they want_).
     

    lorelord

    Senior Member
    UK - english
    It is a corectly formulated sentence in English (i am native British English Speaker)

    "everybody" here though its strict case may or may not be singular - whatever it is - is irrelevant because it stands for a plural - a number of people. So there is no problem about agreement.
     

    toway

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Lorelord, I also think that 'they' is plural in any case and 'everybody' generally means the same as 'they',
    though it indeed make more specific sense.
    Would there be some problems with the initial meaning if we tried to transpose these two words:
    They see what everybody wants to see.
    ?
    I know that there is some problems, but I don't actually realize
    how it is possible despite 'they' and 'everybody' means almost the same?
     
    Last edited:

    toway

    Senior Member
    Russian
    But I want you to relax because I have just realized that this is not a "problem" only of English
    but almost of any language. It gives wider possibilities for a speaking person.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top