Gender-Specific Nouns

Legends say that the famous Dracula was not a Count, but actually was a Countess! Shocking? Here we will look at gender-specific nouns like Count/Countess!

"Gender-Specific Nouns" in English Grammar

Nouns Categorization Based on Gender

The gender of a noun is not necessarily related to the biological gender of the object or concept it represents but rather is a grammatical feature of the language.
Learning the gender of nouns can be challenging for non-native speakers, but it is an important aspect of mastering the language. Based on gender nouns can be categorized into two main categories:

  • Gender Nouns
  • Non-gender Nouns

Gender Nouns

Unlike some other languages, English does not assign genders to all nouns. There are a few exceptions, such as words that refer to people or animals that are gender-specific. However, for the vast majority of words in English, there is no gender assigned. But for those limited amounts of words that do have gender, they can be categorized into two groups:

  1. Gender-Specific Nouns
  2. Gender-Inclusive Nouns

What Are Gender-specific Nouns?

In English, there are a few gender-specific nouns that are used to refer to people or animals of a particular gender, such as "man" or "woman," "boy" or "girl." When using gender-specific nouns, it is important to be aware of the gender of the individual being referred to and use the appropriate noun.

Gender-specific Nouns: Types

Gender-specific nouns can be categorized into different groups:

  1. Nouns related to human's gender
  2. Nouns related to family relations
  3. Nouns related to jobs
  4. Nouns related to titles
  5. Nouns related to animal's gender
M F
man woman
boy girl
husband wife
grandfather grandmother
uncle aunt
waiter waitress
actor actress
prince princess
king queen
lion lioness
stallion mare

Gender-Inclusive Nouns

In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the importance of gender-inclusive language in English, which aims to be more inclusive of people who do not identify as male or female. One way to achieve this is through the use of gender-inclusive nouns, which are words that do not have a gendered connotation or can be used to refer to people or things of any gender.

M F Inclusive
Man Woman person
Son Daughter child
Waiter Waitress Server

Gender-inclusive pronouns are used to refer to individuals who do not identify as male or female, or when the gender of the person is unknown or irrelevant. Some common gender-inclusive pronouns include "they/them," "ze/hir," and "one."

When a person applies for a job, they should include their resume and cover letter.

One can never be too careful when handling delicate items.

Non-Gender Nouns

Non-gender nouns are a type of noun that does not have a gender assigned to it. These nouns are neutral and do not refer to any particular gender. Non-gender nouns are common in English, and they include words like "table," "book," "car," and "computer." Unlike gendered nouns, which may require specific pronouns or articles, non-gender nouns do not require any changes to the words used to describe or modify them.

Tip!

If you are not sure whether a noun is masculine or feminine, you should regard it as neuter. For example, 'my doctor' can be a man or a woman. Or 'her chicken' could be either a rooster or a hen.

Keep in mind that in English, nouns are considered neuter unless they are referring to a male or female person or animal.

Using the Non-gender Pronoun "it"

In English, the neuter pronoun "it" is used to refer to things or objects that do not have a gender. For example, "it" can be used to refer to a book, a table, or a computer. However, "it" can also be used to refer to animals or babies, which can be controversial as it can be seen as dehumanizing or disrespectful. In some cases, using "it" to refer to an individual can be seen as offensive or insensitive, especially when referring to a person who does not identify as male or female.

Neuter gender: My 'cat' sleeps in its box when it feels sleepy.

'Cat' is a neuter noun, 'its' is a neuter possessive determiner and 'it' is a neuter pronoun.

Warning

When a word like 'doctor' refers to a man or a woman, we cannot use neuter pronouns or possessive determiners. In that case, we can use a plural pronoun. This is the most acceptable way of talking about a neuter noun referring to a person.

Ask your doctor if they want to try a different treatment.

Tip!

When using pronouns to substitute for gender-specific nouns, it is important to use the appropriate pronoun for the individual's gender identity. For example, someone who identifies as female would use the pronouns "she/her," while someone who identifies as male would use the pronouns "he/him." For individuals who do not identify as male or female, gender-neutral pronouns such as "they/them" or "ze/hir" can be used.

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