Gender Specific Nouns in English Grammar

Gender Specific Nouns in English Grammar

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

Gender Specific Nouns

Gender or grammatical gender is a category of nouns and pronouns that helps us differentiate between masculine, feminine and neuter nouns.
In many languages, the noun ending determines the gender of a word; but this is not the case in English.

Masculine Nouns

Nouns that are used to name a male person or animal are called masculine nouns.

man , king , brother , son

They are all referring to a man.

rooster , bull , lion

They refer to a male animal.

Feminine Nouns

Nouns that are used to name a female person or animal are called feminine nouns.

woman , girl , queen , daughter

They are all referring to a female person.

hen , cow , lioness

they refer to a female animal.

In English language, feminine nouns are created via some ways:

  • By creating a whole different word;

boy / girl sir / madam king / queen

Boy and girl are two different words.

  • By adding -ess to the end of some words;

lion / lioness

Lion (male) + ess = lioness (female)

  • By omitting the last vowel of a masculine noun and then adding -ess;

waiter / waitress mister / mistress actor / actress

  • By putting some letters or words before or after a masculine noun.

hero / heroine man / woman servant / maid servant

Hero (male) + ine = heroine (female).

Neuter Nouns

Nouns that are used to name a person or animal that can be either a male or a female are called neuter nouns (or common gender nouns).

parent , child , cousin , doctor

They are not referring to only one gender.

chicken , dog , snake

The same point made here.

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

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

Gender Specific Pronouns

The English language has gender-specific personal pronouns in the third-person singular.

  1. The masculine pronouns: he, him, his, himself
  2. The feminine pronouns: she, her, hers, herself
  3. The neuter pronouns: it, its, itself

The importance of knowing the gender of a noun is that the gender of a noun affects the pronouns we use with it.

Masculine gender : The groom took his bride to the dance floor so he can dance with his wife .

'groom' is a masculine noun, 'his' is a masculine possessive determiner and 'he' is a masculine pronoun.

Feminine gender : The queen loved her country , but she hated her people .

'queen' is a feminine noun, 'her' is a feminine possessive determiner and 'she' is a feminine pronoun.

Neuter gender : My cat's 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.

Gender Specific Nouns

Words that are always masculine or feminine are called gender specific nouns.

Duke / Duchess witch / wizard

Witch and wizard are both masculine.


When a word like 'doctor' can refer to a man or a woman, we cannot use the neuter pronouns or possessive determiners. We cannot use (it, its, itself with a person. 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 .

'They' refers to the 'doctor' which is a neuter noun referring to a person.

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