GLOBAL ENGLISH




SPEAKERS: 1,348,145,850



English is the most spoken (and the most global) language in the world. It is spoken natively or as a second language by more than half the population in over 50 countries and territories. While English is most often referred to as a genderless language, it has masculine-feminine gendered distinctions in its lexicon (e.g. waiter, waitress) and in its system of personal pronouns, among other sites.


Personal pronouns are undoubtedly the most visible feature of gender in English. Many speakers have adopted the gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun they, which survives from the 14th century, and many other neopronouns (e.g. ze) have been proposed by queer speakers over time. In the present day, access to gender-inclusive language is one of the most important issues in English-speaking queer communities.



INCLUSIVE PARTIAL GRAMMAR OF ENGLISH


by

This grammar identifies all sites of gendered personal reference in English (i.e. everywhere that linguistic gender aligns with the social gender of who is being referred to). We display the prescriptive masculine and feminine forms as well as extant gender-neutral forms (e.g. they) and any gender-inclusive forms attested by nonbinary speakers. It does not identify the sites of English grammar that do not have gendered personal references. Attestations of these genders are listed in References below.


ABBREVIATIONS

[M.]

MASCULINE

[PL.]

PLURAL

[F.]

FEMININE

[NOM.]

NOMINATIVE

[I.]

INCLUSIVE

[ACC.]

ACCUSATIVE

[N.]

NEUTRAL

[GEN.]

GENITIVE

[SG.]

SINGULAR



PERSONAL PRONOUNS


MASCULINE


FEMININE


NEUTRAL/INCLUSIVE


INCLUSIVE—ZE

I

you

he, she

we

you all

they

he

[NOM. SG.]

him

[ACC. SG.]

his

[GEN. SG.]

she

[NOM. SG.]

her

[ACC. SG.]

her

[GEN. SG.]

they

[NOM. SG.]

them

[ACC. SG.]

their

[GEN. SG.]

ze

[NOM. SG.]

hir, zir

[ACC. SG.]

hir, zir

[GEN. SG.]


POSSESSIVE PRONOUNS

his

hers

theirs

hirs, zirs


REFLEXIVE PRONOUNS

himself

herself

themself

hirself, zirself

In the English personal pronoun system, only one masculine-feminine gender distinction exists: in third-person singular forms. While speakers' gender identities should not be inferred by the pronouns they use, we mark he as masculine and she as feminine linguistically. English is novel in its retention of the gender-neutral personal pronoun they, which survives from the time of Chaucer (around the 14th century) and is now the most popular (linguistically) nonbinary pronoun being used by many people to self-identify today. For this reason, we consider they to be both gender-neutral and gender-inclusive. Other neopronouns like ze [zi] have been proposed and adopted by speakers to varying degrees. These pronouns also have other forms:


REFLEXIVE PRONOUNS


MASCULINE


FEMININE


NEUTRAL/INCLUSIVE


INCLUSIVE—ZE

MASCULINE

FEMININE

NEUTRAL/INCLUSIVE

SUBJECTIVE CASE

Used when the person the pronoun refers to is the subject of a given sentence.

he

she

they

OBJECTIVE CASE

Used when the person the pronoun refers to is the object of a given sentence.

him

her

them

POSSESSIVE CASE

Used to describe a noun that someone possesses; these forms require a noun to follow.

his

her

their

POSSESSIVE PRONOUNS

Used to describe a noun that someone possesses in the absence of that noun; these forms stand alone.

his

hers

theirs

REFLEXIVE PRONOUNS

Used to refer to an action one does to oneself—i.e. when the subject and the object are the same.

himself

herself

themself



LEXICAL GENDER ITEMS


MASCULINE


FEMININE


INCLUSIVE

In the English lexicon, there are many masculine-feminine distinctions in certain pairs of words that are normatively marked masculine and feminine socially. We list equivalent alternatives to masculine and feminine terms in the inclusive column, including innovative forms, which are marked with an asterisk.

brother

husband

father

uncle

nephew

Mr.

actor

waiter

king

god

hero

sister

wife

mother

aunt

niece

Mrs./Ms.

actress

waitress

queen

goddess

heroine

sibling

spouse

parent

pibling*

nibling*

Mx.*

server

monarch

deity

heroix*

As in the case of Mx. and heroix, the -x is often inserted into English words to collapse gendered distinctions (e.g. Mr. and Mrs., hero and heroine) and signify that the person being referenced does not conform to the gender binary.



CITE THIS PAGE

APA 7

Papadopoulos, B., Bedin, C., & Duran, J. (2021). English. Gender in Language Project. www.genderinlanguage.com/english