1 Corinthians 14:24 New International Version

But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all,

English Standard Version

But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all,

Which translation is better: "they" or "he"?

  • See singular they; this question would have been better suited on English.SE.
    – Lucian
    May 11, 2021 at 15:16
  • Thanks for the links. They are eye-openers for me. Thanks again.
    – user35953
    May 11, 2021 at 15:22
  • ελεγχεται is 3rd person singular. The question becomes one of English. Do we still use 'he' or do we use a non-gender singular pronoun ? 'They' is plural. English, thus far, only has one indisputable neuter singular pronoun : 'it'. See English Language & Usage for such questions as this one. English usage (the way language actually develops) has not yet evolved sufficiently to be dogmatic about this matter, yet.#
    – Nigel J
    May 11, 2021 at 15:34
  • 1
    Thanks for the info. Come to think of it. I realized that even I sometimes use the singular they. Somehow, I didn't think that the NIV people would do the same.
    – user35953
    May 11, 2021 at 15:49
  • Just as the KJV uses 'thou' as a means of distinguishing singularity in the vocative, we also need an English pronoun which does the same in the nominative. 'It' is considered rude. And we have no other . . . . . yet. The problem, of course, does not arise in inflected languages (like Hebrew and Greek).
    – Nigel J
    May 11, 2021 at 15:51

3 Answers 3


Actually, both are correct.

The Greek verb ἐλέγχεται is third person singular and so should be translated "he/she is convicted".

However, just as in modern English "you" is both singular and plural second person pronoun, "they" is now uses as the gender neutral third person pronoun in both singular and plural. [This is explained the preface of the latest version of the NIV.]

For example: modern correct English must now say, "If a person [singular] comes in, what will they [singular] think?" That is, it is now incorrect top say, "If a person come in, what will he/she think?"

  • good answer @Dottard +1 from me
    – Adam
    May 11, 2021 at 21:40
  • There is no such change in the universal correct way of the construct. The style guides and dictionaries allow it, but discourage it too. It is not wrong to use he or she, however ridiculous it maybe. The evolution of dictionaries don't change facts and truths of language, anymore than the acceptance of pregnant men don't change biological truths.
    – Michael16
    Oct 28, 2021 at 16:04

Grammarians call "Singular They" Abominable

As you realize that this matter is purely of a political agenda in the name of gender-inclusive or gender-neutral translation philosophy. It seems, in their attempt to politicize basic linguistics to portray the original language forms of using a generic he as discriminative, and to portray themselves as feminism in 20th century. They have violated the grammar rules for their politics, and I will try to demonstrate that there is no such thing as "singular they" which started only in the 20th century to substitute another absurd and misguided practice of "he or she"; these fancy constructs are as modern as pregnant men.

I notice some people arguing that singular they has been traced back to 1375. They would quote the Oxford English Dictionary, on the entry on They:

  1. In anaphoric reference to a singular noun or pronoun. Use of they to refer to a singular antecedent has sometimes been considered erroneous.

a. With an antecedent that is grammatically singular, but refers collectively to the members of a group, or has universal reference (e.g. each person, everyone, nobody). Sometimes, but not always, used to avoid having to specify the gender(s) of the individual(s) being referred to; cf. sense A. 2b.
a1375 (▸c1350) William of Palerne (1867) l. 2179 Hastely hiȝed eche wiȝt..til þei neyȝþed so neiȝh..þere william & his worþi lef were liand i-fere.
c1450 (▸?c1400) Three Kings Cologne (Cambr. Ee.4.32) (1886) 6 Noman was hardy in all þat countrey to sette aȝens hem, for drede þat þey hadde of hem.
1548 Hall's Vnion: Henry VIII f. lxxxv Euery one visered himselfe, so that they were vnknowen. 1698 A. Boyer & J. Savage tr. P. Le Lorrain de Vallemont in T. Hearne Ductor Historicus I. ii. iv. 130 Leaving every Body to their liberty of believing what they pleas'd.
1749 H. Fielding Tom Jones III. viii. xi. 251 Every Body fell a laughing, as how could they help it. View more context for this quotation
1858 W. Bagehot in National Rev. Oct. 476 Nobody fancies for a moment that they are reading about any thing beyond the pale of ordinary propriety.
1874 G. W. Dasent Half a Life 3 Every one likes to keep it to themselves as long as they can.
1955 Househ. Guide & Almanac (News of World) 211/1 Everybody can make good pastry if they have the ‘know-how.’
2014 Dalby (Queensland) Herald (Nexis) 21 Oct. 16 Each member [of the women's touch football team] found something they could improve on in the future.

But all of these examples are not singular they. They are using everyone, everybody and each as collective, for the group. Some English professors would find this wrong, but I think this is not completely wrong, in case we assume everyone as collective. It becomes a trick question, and even English stackexchange answers don't give any substantial evidence for their assertions. Those examples can easily be discarded as bogus, to find cultural and historical support of the oxymoron "singular they".

However, nouns- anyone, no one are unambiguously singular, and they cannot receive the plural pronoun they. The real grammarians call this practice an abomination as they fight to defend and preserve the heritage and history of English as well as the logic in communication in this modern dark age. To quote from the preface of Gwynne’s grammar : the ultimate introduction to grammar and the writing of good English, originally published 2013, London:

Throughout the history of the English language up until the last few decades, the pronoun “he,” when referring to an unnamed person, has been used to include both sexes. In other words, it has been used for two purposes: to refer to a member of the male sex in particular and to a member of the human race of either sex. In Britain at least, the second use was never considered remotely inappropriate or uncomfortable—female speakers and authors used it in this general sense without hesitation or objection....

This of course has changed, the use of “he” to embrace either “he” or “she” now being held by some people to be offensive to women. The result of this has been unfortunate, to say the least. Because saying “he or she,” “him or her” and “his or hers” when speaking about people generally is often disagreeably clumsy, a way of avoiding doing so has arisen which is offensive to logic and common sense and shockingly illiterate when in writing. In place of “he or she” and the rest, the words “they,” “them” and “their” are now often used, even when referring to only one person, as in “Anyone who considers this modern practice acceptable has lost their mind.”

Given the weight of tradition and authority supporting the all-embracing use of “he,” I could easily justify defending it prescriptively and forcefully. I should, moreover, be in good company if I did, even among recent authors. I give two examples, each from a book that I wholeheartedly recommend in “Further Reading” at the end of this book.

The up-to-date edition of The Economist’s authoritative Style Guide says in a section called “political correctness”:

Some people believe the possibility of giving offence, causing embarrassment, lowering self-esteem, reinforcing stereotypes, perpetuating prejudice, victimising, marginalising or discriminating to be more important than stating the truth, never mind the chance of doing so with any verve or panache. They are wrong … Your first duty is to the truth.

You also have a duty to grammar. The struggle to be gender-neutral rests on a misconception about gender, a grammatical convention to make words masculine, feminine or neuter …

If you believe it is “exclusionary” or insulting to women to use “he” in a general sense, you can rephrase some sentences in the plural … But some sentences resist this treatment: “Find a good teacher and take his advice” is not easily rendered gender-neutral. So do not be ashamed of sometimes using “man” to include women, or making “he” do for “she.”

And, so long as you are not insensitive in other ways, few women will be offended if you restrain yourself from putting “or she” after every “he.”

Simon Heffer, in his Strictly English, published as recently as 2010, is if anything even more emphatic. His opening of the book is a Preliminary Note titled “A Word About Sex,” where he says:

We have no single pronoun to cover the phrases he-or-she, him-or-her and his-or-her. An attempt has been made in the last century or so to fill this void with they, them and their. I regard that as abominable and want no part of it … I adopt the old rule that “the masculine will be taken to include the feminine wherever necessary.” This implies no offence to my women readers. It implies my desire to avoid the tedious verbosity of sentences such as “every writer likes to ensure that his or her command of the language …” So when you read “every writer likes to ensure that his command of the language …” please be assured that I am thinking of Jane Austen, George Eliot, Virginia Woolf and Barbara Pym as much as I am of anyone else.

Therefore, dear readers, I am compromising for one of only two times in this book. On the one hand, I for the most part have taken trouble to avoid using “he” to cover both sexes, though I never do what Mr. Heffer regards as abominable—for instance, using “their” when referring back to “anyone” or “no one.”

Jen Doll writing in the the atlantic 2013, laments about the irrationality of it:

Don't do something because it's easy and everyone else is doing it. If a word sounds like it's landing with a horrid thump in your ear, it's landing that way to at least some of your readers. Every time I see a singular they, my inner grammatical spirit aches. ..[ ].. The easy fix is not necessarily the best one, and they is not the solution to our pronoun ills. The singular they is ear-hurting, eye-burning, soul-ravaging, mind-numbing syntactic folly. Stop the singular they. Stop it now.

As we see, "anyone", "no one" kind of words leaves no room for confusion that they are singular nouns, unlike "everyone". How much more does the phrase an unbeliever or an inquirer in 1 Corinthians 14:24 NIV refers to singular nouns! It is a cultural disaster to destroy fundamentals of language this way.


Today almost all style guides and dictionaries such as the Chicago style guide 17th edition may approve the usage of the "singular they", or in the coming days may even a married bachelor, pregnant man, and a square circle for that matter. These have no validity in the linguistic natural rules of any language. Whether the modern translator's attempt to corrupt language for their theological agendas like changing the neuter gender for Spirit into masculine, or their practice of gender or changing the generic he or mankind for politics, it should not be accepted in a rational culture which claims to worship Truth. What began as an agenda labelling itself as feminism, did not take it many decades to start erasing the identity of women itself. The so-called pluralists and sensitive camp should not be surprised at our dismay and disregard for such translation. These minor things cumulatively build up into ignorance and illiteracy of literature, culture and the scripture that we witness since the 20th century.



Virtually all of us use what scholars call the ‘singular they.’ This isn’t a new innovation (even Shakespeare used it), but it’s become universal in everyday speech and is being utilized even in formal English. When the context shows the text is not specifying males, the NIV translators frequently used a singular they rather than an exclusive “he,” “she,” or the ever-awkard “he or she.”

Matthew 18:15

1984 NIV
If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.

2011 NIV
If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.

Now, the truth is most people use “they” in precisely the same manner the current NIV does in this verse and similar passages. Its critics, however, claim this reading obscures the fact that a sinning individual is being confronted. They say this now implies a group is involved. (This despite the fact the verse speaks of a “brother or sister”—singular—who sins, and specifies that one should point out their fault “just between the two of you”!)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.