English has many rules and quirks, which can make it more interesting to learn. When considering the plural forms of the word “it,” some level of confusion is expected.
The plural of “it” becomes “they,” “them,” or “their.” “It” is a neuter pronoun that takes the place of a noun, typically used to describe an inanimate object or a thing. Therefore, “it” is usually capable of a plural form except in specific contexts, such as when representing an abstract noun.
Abstract nouns, such as the word “love,” are usually unaccountable and have no plural form. In this article, we’ll address the singular and plural forms of “it” and provide you with examples.
How to Use “It” In Plural Form
We can use “it” in a sentence in the place of a subject or an object, and you can use it to describe any psychological or physical subject or object. To simplify matters, we consider it to be a “thing.”
We require a different pronoun to make the “thing” a plural, so is “they” the plural of “it”?
The plural form of “it” will vary according to the case, whether subjective, objective, or possessive, and “they,” “them,” and “their” are all plural forms of “it.”
Pluralising “it” is simple when swapping it out for a common or proper noun and will depend on the noun which the pronoun “it” replaces (source).
|The milk was sour. It tasted awful.||The milk was sour. It tasted awful.|
|The cow jumped over the moon. It jumped high.||The cows jumped over the moon. They jumped high.|
|The dish ran away with the spoon. It was lonely.||The dishes ran away with the spoons. They were lonely.|
|Little Miss Muffet saw the spider. It had eight legs.||Little Miss Muffet saw the spiders. They had eight legs.|
|The fish swam in the sea. It was slippery.||The fish swam in the sea. They were slippery.|
|Its reasons were unclear.||Their reasons were unclear.|
Subjective Case: “They”
A noun or pronoun is in the subjective case when it is either the subject of a sentence or the predicate noun using a linking verb.
The pronoun “it” can be either in the subjective case or objective case. When “it” is the subject of the sentence, it is in the subjective or nominative case, and the plural subjective case would be “they.”
Compare the subjective forms of “it” and “they”:
- It belongs there.
- They belong there.
Objective Case: “Them”
When we use the pronoun “it” as either a direct or an indirect object, or an object of the preposition, it is in the objective case.
Just as the pronoun “they” serves as the plural form when “it” is the subject, the pronoun “them” serves as the plural objective case of “it” when it is the object of the sentence.
Here is an example of “it” in the objective case followed by the plural form, “them”:
- Nature challenges it as a species.
- Nature challenges them as a species.
The subject of each sentence is “Nature,” while the object or objects receive the action performed by the subject.
Possessive Case: Their
“Their” is a weak possessive pronoun, and it is the plural form of “its.” Possessive pronouns allow us to show possession or ownership of the object in a sentence. The singular possessive case of “it” is “its,” and the plural is “their” and “theirs.”
Here are a few sentence examples:
- That’s its survival technique.
- That’s their survival technique.
Here are the different cases and their respective singular or plural pronouns for review:
|Subject Pronouns||Possessive Pronouns||Object Pronouns|
“It” Is A Neuter Pronoun
“It” in its most common form is a pronoun. A pronoun is a substitute for a noun used to avoid repeating the noun that has either been named, will be named, or whose identity is unknown (source).
Some common examples of pronouns include “I,” “you,” “me,” “he,” “she,” “it,” “our,” “their,” and “that.”
While pronouns can be either singular or plural, they must always agree with their antecedent in number, person, and gender. A pronoun will always have an antecedent, which is the noun that the pronoun replaces or to which the pronoun refers (source).
Here is an example of an antecedent for the pronoun it:
- The book was lying open on the table. It was open on the index page.
Nouns with No Plural Forms
Some nouns do not have plural forms, and these are usually nouns that come in groups or those that are abstract.
Other ways we use “it” in a sentence with no plural form include an “empty” or “dummy” subject and object, in cleft sentences, or as the anticipatory “it” (source).
“It” as an Abstract Noun
An abstract noun is a noun denoting a state, a feeling, an idea, or a quality, rather than a tangible object, and is not detectable by the five physical senses. Abstract nouns refer to concepts or ideas, and it is often impossible to pluralize them.
Examples of abstract nouns are love, truth, danger, happiness, friendship (source).
|I thought love was enough, but it was not.||None|
|The danger was palpable, and I could feel it.||The dangers were palpable, and we could feel them.|
|The truth was such that it would set them free.||The truths were such that they would set them free.|
|Happiness is a state of mind. It is a journey, not a destination.||None|
|Friendship is to be valued. Treasure it.||Friendships are to be valued. Treasure them.|
|Its love was obvious.||Their love was obvious.|
Often “it” is used with mass nouns, which are usually nouns that come in groups. For example:
- The livestock came in for the winter to prevent them from freezing in the icy conditions.
- They broadcast the news far and wide, and many found it to be too much to bear.
- Money may be the root of all evil, but it pervades, regardless.
“It” as An “Empty/Dummy” Subject and Object
Using it as an “empty” subject or as an “empty” object occurs when the word “it” does not refer to anything in particular. In this form, you cannot change the pronoun “it” into a plural form.
- How long will it be before the month ends?
- It will be raining all day.
- It is getting too late to go for a run outdoors.
- He doesn’t appreciate it when you punish him with the silent treatment.
“It” and Cleft Sentences
When “it” appears in cleft sentences, it accentuates the subject or object of the main clause. The word “it” does not change whether the subject or the object is plural or not.
- It was her brother who saved the tsunami victims, wasn’t it?
- It was her brothers who saved the tsunami victims, wasn’t it?
- Was it the storm that caused the power outage? Was it the storms that caused the power outages?
- It was the puppy she adopted, not the kitten. It was the puppies she adopted, not the kittens.
“It” is also used to introduce or anticipate the subject or object of a sentence, notably when the subject/object is a clause. When “it” is used in this way, it is known as a “dummy” subject because the real subject is another part of the sentence.
The anticipatory “It” does not have a plural form. By way of example, the real subject is underlined in the example sentences (source):
- It was pleasant to swim in the ocean again.
- It is great that he is drinking less fizzy drinks.
- It is likely that they will be early; therefore, the room should be ready.
Even the most eloquent of English native speakers get confused sometimes on issues concerning the pluralization of nouns and pronouns. Common bugbears include the case of families or family’s and people’s or peoples’, so make sure you read the related articles.
For those feeling at all discouraged and in need of help with certain aspects of English grammar or words, The Oxford New Essential Dictionary and Dreyer’s English are readily available on Amazon.
Both the easy-to-use style guide and the dictionary will help answer any critical questions regarding all aspects of the English language.
As perplexing as all the rules might appear at first, practice makes perfect. In a nutshell, the plural forms of the word “it” are “they,” “them,” or “their,” representing the subjective, objective, and possessive cases, respectively.
However, in some cases, “it” cannot have a plural form, like an abstract noun or mass noun. The more time spent on pluralizing the word “it” in each case, the easier it will become to use the plurals correctly.