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
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.
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.
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).
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.
- The masculine pronouns: he, him, his, himself
- The feminine pronouns: she, her, hers, herself
- 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.