Grammatical Gender

Nowadays using genders to refer to males and females is not considered common. In this lesson, we will learn about how and what it is.

"Grammatical Gender" in English Grammar

What is Grammatical Gender?

There are many ways to categorize nouns and grammatical gender is one of them. In different languages, there are different categories such as: masculine, feminine, neuter, or animate and inanimate.

What Does Gender Mean?

Some languages categorize the nouns base on their meaning or attribute like if they are animal, human, or by their biological sex; but in some other languages the grammatical gender is more morphological—base on the sound of the word—rather than semantic (by the meaning of the word). For example:

"the house" in Spanish "la casa" is feminine, but "el hogar" (the home) is masculine.

House in English and German (haus) considered neuter. Yet in French "la maison" (the house) is feminine.

Grammatical Gender in English

There are four categories for grammatical gender in English:

  • Masculine gender
  • Feminine gender
  • Neuter gender
  • Inclusive gender

Masculine Gender

Masculine gender refers to male figure or a male member of a species. For example: man/brother/dad/ox.

My father spent the whole evening playing with my son.

The rooster protects the flock.

Metaphorical Gender

Sometimes there are some nouns which clearly do not have a feminine or masculine gender, but are given female or male pronouns metaphorically, usually tools, computers, or robots used to get masculine gender (It is possible to get feminine gender too!)

My knife was dirty, I took him out and finally cleaned him.

Feminine Gender

Feminine gender refers to a female figure or female member of a species. For example: mother/sister/woman/cow.

His mother has three daughters.

The hen lays over fifteen eggs a week.

Metaphorical Gender

Sometimes there are some nouns that clearly do not have a feminine or masculine gender, but are given female or male pronouns metaphorically, usually, vehicles (especially ships and boats), nations (like Mother Russia), earth (Mother Earth), used to consider as feminine gender.

This is my yacht; she is a special one.


Since the direct mention of gender (when irrelevant) and gender stereotypes become progressively criticized, feminizing and masculinizing inanimate objects are considered outmoded or poetic in English, and nowadays people avoid assigning genders to these objects.

Neuter Gender

Neuter refers to words that are not feminine or masculine, like inanimate things such as rock, table, and comb; animals, like dog, cat, and bear; humans (only fetus and baby)

The dog had a big belly; its belly was very round.


It is a rock.

Inanimate objects

It is a boy.



Please remember that the “it” pronoun if used for humans (other than fetus/baby) will be considered either offensive or humorous.

Inclusive Gender

These days people tend to use words that do not define a particular gender. For example, some jobs contain a male or female title such as postman, which makes it a male job, but there is not any special job that dedicates only one gender; so people tend to change them into neutral gender words. For example:

Male Female Neuter
Man Woman Person
Brother Sister Sibling
Mother Father Parent
Policeman Polocewoman Policeofficer
Husband Wife Spouse


There were also some jobs, particularly for women, such as nurses and secretaries. Nowadays because there is no gender limitation to take these jobs, people avoid using the old names and try to use neuter titles. For example, instead of fireman, we can say firefighter, or instead of secretary we can say, personal assistant.

Personal Pronouns and Possessive Determiners

We should know that the genders affect the pronouns as well as the possessive determiners.

Now, take a look at some examples:

My mother lost her phone, while she was at work.

Sam’s brother ran to get his food, since he loves Indian food so much.

The cat wiggled its tale so quickly; it’s very playful.


Some nouns do not show their gender until they are used with a pronoun or possessive determiners. Like:

My friend is very tall; she never wears heels.

Here, we do not know what is the friend's gender until we see the pronoun "she".

Some genders can change. Let’s see an example:

The cat (neutral) → What color is its tale?

The cat (feminine) → What color is her tale?

The cat (masculine) → What color is his tale?

Singular "They"

look at the following examples:

Each person should know where his room is.

Every competitor should know where he must stand.

In old English, people used to use "he/his" for unknown genders, but this is not very acceptable now in modern English.

Each person should know where his/her room is.

Every competitor should know where he/she must stand.

The above is correct, but It is better to use they/their:

Each person should know where their room is.

Each competitor should know where they must stand.

Everyone should know where their room is.

Anyone competing should know where they must stand.

Gender Neutral Pronouns for People

Some people consider themselves neither male nor female, and some consider themselves both. Some people would not like to be referred to with the gender assigned to them when they were born. These people might ask you to refer to them as "they" (singular).

Gender Agreement

Before we go through the gender agreement, let's see what is agreement.
Agreement in English means that in one sentence the words should have a harmony. For better understanding let us show you an example:

I am a doctor.

She is a nurse.

We surely can't say: "I is a doctor" or "she am a nurse". This is because English grammar demands that the verb and the subject should agree in person.

What is Gender Agreement?

In languages with grammatical genders there usually should be agreement between noun and its modifiers; let's see:

Pronoun Agreement

In English we have the pronoun “they” and its relatives (them/their) which is gender inclusive, can be used singular and plural and for both male and female. So it is not an issue with the third person plural in English since they agree with any gender.

She went home to feed her dog.

He started crying for his lost toy.

It climbed the stairs to drink from its tiny bowl.

In most European language the pronouns are gendered like English that we already mentioned, we have “él, ella” (he – she) in Spanish, he (il), she (elle) they masculine (ils) and they feminine (elles) in French.
But not all languages have gendered pronouns, there are some languages without the grammatical gender, some languages only have one word for “he” and “she” like ő in Hungarian, او (oo) in Persian, this will make the agreement in the sentence easier.

Noun Agreement

In English there are some proper names/titles/occupation names and some borrowed words which have genders. For example, the proper name Andrew (masculine), Andrea (feminine) and Chris (neuter), or the titles ladies (feminine), gentlemen (masculine), some occupations like actor (masculine), actress (feminine), and there are some words like fiancé (masculine) and fiancée (feminine) which has entered from the French language.

Adjective Agreement

In English language almost all the adjectives do not have a gender, of course there are exceptions like blond (masculine), and blonde (feminine).


Knowing that we should also know that there are some adjectives that has assigned to a particular gender inappropriately. For example: mumsy (meaning old-fashioned) which is usually used to describe women, or kingly (like a king) which is usually to describe men.

Determiners Agreement

Determiners in English mostly have no gender except the third person of the possessive determiners. His/her/Its. For example:

These are his shoes.

We know these are a boy’s shoes.

This is her bag.

We know it’s a girl’s bag.

Its tale is furry.

We are not sure of its gender. (whether it's an object like toy or animal.)

In other European languages the determiners usually are specific in gender, for example, look at the French language:

Elle est ma (feminine) mère.

She is my mother. ("my" is written in its feminine form in French.)

iIl est mon (masculine) père.

He is my father.("my" is written in its masculine form in French.)

C’est ta (feminine) voiture.

This is your car. ("your" is written in its feminine form in French.)

C’est ton (masculine) stylo.

This is your pen. ("your" is written in its masculine form in French.)

Verb Agreement

In English, the verbs do not need to change in order to agree with the gender, but there are some languages in which their verbs change according to gender, for example in Russian a male says, ‘Ya kupil knigu,' and a female says, 'Ya kupila knigu,' for ‘I bought a book’.


As you know pronouns are there to replace nouns, personal pronouns are used so we do not use the name of the person.

Sara is a student.

She is a student.

Nowadays the pronouns used for the person should not be assumed or guessed.
If a person's pronouns are unknown to you, you can simply use the third person singular “they/them”; it is grammatically correct and also respectful.
Neo-pronouns have not officially added to the English language, but there are some dictionaries that are including gender-neutral pronouns.

English Neo-pronouns

The use of the neo-pronouns is exactly the same as any other pronoun. Neo-pronouns can tell you something about how this person understands their gender, or the person just feels more comfortable being referred to with these pronouns.

  • Xe/Xem/Xers
  • Fae/Faer/faers
  • Ze/ hir/hirs
  • E/Em/Ems
  • Ve /Ver/Vers
  • Ae/Aer/Aers
  • Ne/Nem/Nems
  • Thon/Thonself
  • Meow/Meows/Meowself

The last one is called a nounself pronoun, Nounself pronoun users often choose pronouns based on objects or ideas that they have a strong personal connection to. For example:


In a sentence it would be: “She got the food for herself, which was her friend’s order.” you would now say, Kit got the food for kitself, which was kit’s friend’s food."

Nounself pronouns may also be a reflection of their gender identity. Non-binary gender identities that are outside of masculinity or femininity are called xenogenders. Like nounself pronouns, xenogenders can use objects or ideas as metaphors to describe how they feel about their gender. For example:


A gender that feels connected to space.


A gender that feels connected to plants and flowers.


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