GENDER IN LANGUAGE PROJECT


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.



QUICK-REFERENCE PARAGRAPH



INCLUSIVE PARTIAL GRAMMAR OF ENGLISH

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 gender-inclusive forms attested by nonbinary speakers (e.g. ze). 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

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./PL.]

them

[ACC. SG./PL.]

their

[GEN. SG./PL.]

ze

[NOM. SG.]

hir

[ACC. SG.]

hir

[GEN. SG.]

POSSESSIVE PRONOUNS

his

hers

theirs

hirs

REFLEXIVE PRONOUNS

himself


herself


themself


hirself


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. Neopronouns like ze [zi] have been proposed and adopted by speakers to varying degrees. To see more classes of neopronouns, click here.



HONORIFICS


MASCULINE


FEMININE


INCLUSIVE

In English, use of the inclusive honorific Mx. (IPA: [mɪks]) is common amongst nonbinary communities.

Mr.

mister

Sir

Mrs., Ms., Miss

missus, —, —

Ma'am

madam

Mx.




LEXICAL GENDER ITEMS


MASCULINE


FEMININE


NEUTRAL/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

actor

waiter

king

god

hero

sister

wife

mother

aunt

niece

actress

waitress

queen

goddess

heroine

sibling

spouse

parent

pibling

nibling

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., Clendenning-Jiménez, S., Duran, J., & Miller, Z. K. (2022). English. Gender in Language Project. www.genderinlanguage.com/english