i pity them parents


Lina: The children are naughty.
Jay: I pity ‘them’ parents.

Shouldn’t it be ‘their’ instead? I often hear people say it this way, is it a colloquial expression?

Yes, it’s very colloquial or even slang.[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: A game of tennis[YSaerTTEW443543]

Hi Rickyrocky,

Using ‘them’ that way is nonstandard and extremely informal. It is the sort of usage that carries a negative stigma – i.e. it may cause some people to view the speaker as uneducated or perhaps even a bit stupid. ‘Them’ is also sometimes used this way for comic effect.

The word ‘them’ is not used as a possessive adjective in your sentence (i.e. it does not mean ‘their’), but rather as a demonstrative adjective. It basically means ‘those’ in such a context.

Hi Torsten,

Since this site has quite a few tests that test slang, I’m curious about what exactly you mean when you say ‘or even slang’. You seem to be ranking ‘colloquial’ as being higher level than ‘slang’. Is that what you mean? And are learners taught to use ‘them’ this way in them thar slang tests?
[size=75]“The test of the artist does not lie in the will with which he goes to work, but in the excellence of the work he produces.” ~ Thomas Aquinas[/size]

Speaker? Do you mean Jay, in this case?

As Torsten and Esl Expert said, the usage is informal, and the speaker is Jay here, Ricky. However, from a linguistical point of view, correctness or elegance is less important or of less significance than existence. The history of language is always like this: first spoken, then written, last grammaticalization. You can hear many people say such as ‘I pity them parents.’ here in the United States, or the ‘pattern’ is even favored by some people with a unique background of culture, region, age, etc. On the other hand, it is also doubtless true that its citizenship in the modern English kingdom has not yet been granted, but that’s not where I am interested.