A-Z: General definitions: Gender neutral pronouns


In older usage, the words ‘he’, ‘him’ and ‘his’ have been used generically to refer to the whole of humanity. However, more recently, there has been criticism of these terms, as well as words like ‘mankind’ and ‘Man’, and increased pressure to use gender-neutral or inclusive terms. This is largely possible in the English language, but some problems remain with pronouns, as there is no satisfactory gender-neutral pronoun for Third person singular. Some writers choose ‘they’ or ‘them’, e.g. ‘If anyone wants their coat, they must collect it before ten.’ Other possibilities include ‘(s)he’ or ‘he/she’, or completely avoiding the need for a pronoun by recasting the sentence.

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