The Plural of It: Here’s What It Is and How to Use It

One such word that is completely borrowed from the etymological additions that other languages make to English is the word “it.”  This word has a very complicated background and history, and as such, its grammatical forms and pluralization do not follow any typical rules that most words follow.  In this article, let’s explore the proper use of the word it, how to pluralize it, look for its synonyms, and learn its context.

Your writing, at its best

Compose bold, clear, mistake-free writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant

Is They the Plural of It?

To first understand a word, its history, and how to use it properly, it is important to first define what it actually means.  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the word “it” is a pronoun that can be defined as “that one, used subject or direct object or indirect object of a verb or object of a preposition usually in reference to a lifeless thing.”  A secondary definition listed is that “it” is “used as subject of an impersonal verb that expresses a condition or action without reference to an agent.”

The word it, being a pronoun, actually fulfills several roles and is probably one of the most used words in the English language.  In looking for the plural of it, we’re actually looking for a plural subject. However, the plural of “it” leaves some people with questions.  How do you properly refer to inanimate objects in the plural?  Is there a right way and a wrong way?

Well, yes, actually.  The plural of “it” is, in fact, the word “they” in the subject case and “them” in the object case.  To put it in perspective, object pronouns are words like he and she. Unlike the singular “it,” however, the plurals “they” and “them” can also be applied to people or objects with names, not just inanimate objects.  So if, for example, you are referring to a single apple, you would say that you washed “it”, but if you are referring to multiple apples, you would say that you washed “them”.          

Is the Word it Singular or Plural?

Pronouns are difficult and also different from most other words in the English language because they fulfill a special role.  It’s not a singular verb, it’s not a plural noun, it’s not a plural verb, so what does it do? Pronouns replace other words; for example, instead of using someone’s name thirty times in a story, you can say “he,” “she,” or “they” in place of their name.  The pronoun “it” is a non-personal pronoun and is used to refer to objects that are not human (or in some cases, people’s pets).  

The word “it” does not necessarily inherently possess singularity or plurality, as it is just a word that replaces other words.  However, it is only used to replace singular nouns, so at the end of the day, it might as well be considered a singular pronoun, while they is the first person plural.  

Many people confuse the word it’s with being the plural form of it. However, the apostrophe here indicates that it is a contraction for it is. Likewise, its is not the plural form of it, because it is a possessive pronoun. 

The History and Origin of the Word

One of the best ways to understand a word is to learn where it came from.  A word’s etymology can reveal a lot about the changes a word has gone through to get to where it is today in modern English.  According to EtymOnline.com, the word “it” has a very convoluted origin story.  It was first introduced to Old English as the pronoun “hit”, a neuter nominative and accusative of third person singular pronouns from the Proto-Germanic language.  Additionally, as gender began to fade in pronouns through Middle English and into the modern that we speak today, it took on the meaning “the thing spoken about before”.

Pronouns in their current form can almost exclusively be traced back to Latin, and it is actually the case that much of modern English is derived from ancient languages such as Latin and Greek by way of other European languages such as Spanish, German, or Italian.        

Examples of the Word in Context

Another good way to learn a word and apply it to your own vocabulary is to hear it used properly.  Reading it or hearing a word used in its correct context is a great way to learn how to use it yourself.  Here are some common example sentences of the pronoun “it” in common conversation:

  • “Have you seen the weather this morning? It is absolutely beautiful outside.”
  • “The cat food is on the countertop, and it needs to be put in his bowl about three times a day. “
  • “Have you seen the group outside?  It keeps growing, and they all seem very restless.” (This is an example of both the singular and plural pronouns being used to refer to both a single group and several individuals at the same time.)
  • “The symphony is performing tonight, and its sound is incredible.  They have achieved such a high level of fidelity that the conductor has been reviewed as excellent.”

Synonyms for It

Because the word “it” is a pronoun, there really are no synonyms that fulfill the same exact role.  However, there are gender specific pronouns that refer to people, and the plurals also all work for both personal and impersonal communication.  

In Summary

Pronouns are something that make English as complicated as it is and can be difficult to learn.  However, after reading this article, hopefully, you are prepared to be able to use the word “it” and its plural forms in any form of communication.  Just remember that whenever you are communicating, your audience is the most important part of your communication.  Make sure you are using the words that most effectively communicate to them what you are trying to say.  Good luck!

Sources:

  1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/it
  2. https://www.etymonline.com/word/it#etymonline_v_12281
  3. https://ell.stackexchange.com/questions/54025/talking-about-inanimate-objects-in-plural-they-or-it
  4. https://thewordcounter.com/blog-common-grammar-mistakes/ 
  5. https://thewordcounter.com/what-does-ps-mean/ 
  6. https://thewordcounter.com/is-vs-are/