The question Subject-verb agreement when using singular they? recently popped up in the Reopen Votes queue because the poster returned and edited it in hopes of getting it reopened. It had been closed 18 months ago as a duplicate of two earlier questions: Is the genderless pronoun "they" appropriate and grammatical for a non-binary gender? and Is there a correct gender-neutral singular pronoun ("his" vs. "her" vs. "their")?

I checked the two cited questions and found that (as their headings suggest) they dealt with the more basic question of whether singular they is acceptable/correct in current English as a gender-neutral pronoun. Since neither cited prior question dealt specifically with the question of whether they used as a singular pronoun should take a singular verb, I voted to reopen.

But longtime EL&U participant sumelic did a much more thorough job of researching the question than I did, and discovered that two previous questions asked about the same issue that the poster's question here did: Why isn’t singular ‘they’ used with 3Sg verb forms? and subject-verb agreement for singular they.

In pointing out those two prior questions, sumelic modestly asked, "Does either of those provide a satisfactory answer to your question, [OP]?" In my view, several of the answers address the poster's question directly and thoroughly.

The question remains, however: What is the best way to replace the poorly chosen duplicate citations with the well-chosen ones? Left to our own devices, site participants could reopen the question as not being a duplicate of either the two questions currently cited in the close reason and then reclose it as being a duplicate of the two questions that sumelic points out. But that seems like a rather inefficient way to achieve a simple, objectively desirable result.

A more direct approach would be for a moderator to step in and replace the off-point citations with the on-point ones. The upgraded citations would help anyone who in future comes across the closed post and wants to read relevant answers to the question it raises. But can moderators make such changes, or is the circuitous path of regular users' reopening the question and then reclosing it with appropriate citations the only way to straighten out the page?

Also, if a similar situation arises in the future (and I'm sure it will), is the best course to flag the issue using the "in need of moderator intervention" flag reason, explain the problem with the "duplicate of" citations in the explanation box, and identify the much better alternative citations that are available?

1 Answer 1


Moderators have the ability to edit the list of original questions that the duplicate question links to. They can delete links and also add new ones.

I see two ways someone could proceed. They could:

  1. Flag the question and explain the proposed link edit to the mod team.

  2. Post at meta and explain the proposed link edit to the community. After peer review, then flag the mod team.

So approach #2 just invites peer review of the link edit before throwing the flag. But the advantage is that the mod team will probably act much sooner. There is less time needed for scrutiny of an edit that has already been peer reviewed.

  • Thanks for your response, MetaEd. I am still unsure about the nature of the peer review you mention in approach #2. In raising the issue about the particular instance that prompted my question, would I ask Meta readers to vote up or down on the suggested change in cited links? Or would I ask them to vote to reopen the question so that we could then vote to reclose it with the better links? Or something else?
    – Sven Yargs
    Dec 19, 2017 at 19:20
  • 1
    What I had in mind was the meta Q would invite voting to indicate agreement or disagreement with the proposed relink.
    – MetaEd
    Dec 19, 2017 at 19:33
  • 2
    Also, gold tag badge users have a similar control over listed duplicates.
    – NVZ Mod
    Dec 19, 2017 at 20:29
  • @NVZ beat me to it, but I was looking up the reference that explains that gold badge holders may also edit the list: meta.stackexchange.com/q/291824
    – ColleenV
    Dec 19, 2017 at 20:30
  • @ColleenV And you, me: english.meta.stackexchange.com/a/10708/50044
    – NVZ Mod
    Dec 19, 2017 at 20:31

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