Pronouns

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Pronouns are a part of language used to refer to someone or something without using proper nouns. In standard English, some singular third-person pronouns are "he" and "she," which are usually seen as gender-specific pronouns, referring to a man and a woman, respectively. A gender-neutral pronoun or gender-inclusive pronoun is one that gives no implications about gender, and could be used for someone of any gender. Some languages only have gender-neutral pronouns, whereas other languages have difficulty establishing any that aren't gender-specific. People with non-binary gender identities offebten choose new third-person pronouns for themselves as part of their transition. They often choose gender-neutral pronouns so that others won't see them as female or male.

Arabic neutral pronouns

Gender-neutral pronouns in Arabic language (عربي) include:

هما means "they, originally dual, can work as a neutral singular third person."[1]

انتما means "second person dual."[1]

Bulgarian neutral pronouns

Gender-neutral pronouns in Bulgarian language (български език) include:

те/тях/техен/им "generally used for a group of people, could be used as singular as in 'they'"[1]

о/него/негово/му "means 'it', informal"[1]

Chinese neutral pronouns

Gender-neutral pronouns in Chinese language (中文) include:

na4ge4ren2 (traditional: 那個人) (simplified: 那个人) means "that person."[1]

zhe4ge4ren2 (traditional: 這個人) (simplified: 这个人) means "this person."[1]

Gender-neutral pronouns in Mandarin Chinese (普通话) include:

tā/ta1 is the standard pronoun for people, which when pronounced aloud is gender-neutral. However, the written characters (either 他 or 她 depending) aren't gender-neutral. Another written form of tā is 它 meaning "it," but this can be derogatory, so only use it for a person with their permission. Similarly, tā 牠 is a pronoun "used for non-human animals."[1]

Gender-neutral pronouns in Cantonese (广州话) include:

keúih/keoi5 佢 meaning "them/him/her/it"


Czech neutral pronouns

Gender-neutral pronouns in Czech language (čeština) include:

onikání, "which was used in the past as gender-neutral pronoun when refering to someone of lesser status. it’s oni/je/jejich/se they/them/their/themself and the use is: Oni jsou moc milým člověkem. - They are a very nice person."[1]


Danish neutral pronouns

Gender-neutral pronouns in Danish language (Dansk) include:

de, dem, deres[1]

hen, hen, hens[1]

Dutch neutral pronouns

Gender-neutral pronouns in Dutch language (Nederlands) include:

ze, hun, ze "note: literal translation of they, but ze is often used as 'she'"[1]

zij, hen, hun[1]


English neutral pronouns

See also: gender neutral language - English, glossary of English gender and sex terminology

In English, people are usually called by a pronoun that implies their gender. For example, she for women, and he for men. The use of singular they as a gender-neutral pronoun has been documented as standard usage in English throughout the past thousand years. However, prescriptive grammarians in the late eighteenth century decided that it was bad grammar, because it works like a plural, and because it isn't done in Latin.[2]

Prescriptive grammarians of the late eighteenth century instead recommended using "he" as a gender-neutral pronoun when one is needed, instead of "singular they."[3] However, "gender-neutral he" results in writings that are unclear about whether they mean only men or not, which makes problems in law.[4]

Seeking a solution to the problem of a lack of a gender-neutral pronoun in English that satisfies all needs, people since the mid nineteenth century have proposed many new gender-neutral singular pronouns.[5] For example, sie, Spivak pronouns, and others. None of these new words (neologisms) have become standard use or adopted into books of English grammar. However, some sets of these neologistic pronouns have seen use for real people with non-binary gender identities, and for characters in fiction. These neologisms are the main topic explored in this article.

There have been some native English dialects that have their own gender-neutral pronouns, such as a, ou, and yo. These are often regional.

This list is of third-person singular pronouns in the English language only. (Pronouns in other languages should go in a different section.) These pronouns have all been used in English.

Please feel free to add more, though note that if you don't provide citations for notability or include all five forms your entry may be moved to the talk page or be removed entirely. List pronoun sets in alphabetical order by their nominative form, or by the name of the set.



Alternating pronouns

he, her, his, herself (for example). Instead of using an alternative or neutral pronoun set, some people prefer an alternation between the binary-gendered sets. Justice Ginsburg is in favor of alternating "he" and "she" pronouns to make legal documents gender-inclusive.[3]

Use in fiction: In K. A. Cook's short story "Blue Paint, Chocolate and Other Similes," in Crooked Words, most of the story involves the narrator Ben moving from one set of pronouns to another for Chris as he tries to figure out Chris's gender. When the narrator is trying to determine whether Chris is male or female, Ben alternates between thinking of Chris as he or she. Upon recognizing that Chris identifies as nonbinary, the narrator begins using ze pronouns for Chris. Then, Ben finally finds a good moment to ask for Chris's pronoun preference.[6]

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell her a joke he laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet her I hug him.
  • Pronominal possessive: When he does not get a haircut, her hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: If my mobile phone runs out of power, he lets me borrow hers.
  • Reflexive: Each child feeds herself. or Each child feeds himself.

Usage: In the Nonbinary Stats 2016 survey, 12% of respondents chose "mix it up; use different pronouns frequently and randomly" both alone and in addition to other pronoun choices.[7]


Che

che, chim, chis, chis, chimself. A set of gender-neutral pronouns listed in Merriam Webster's Dictionary of English Usage under epicene pronouns.[8]

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke che laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug chim.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, chis hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: If I need a phone, my friend lets me borrow chis.
  • Reflexive: Each child feeds chimself.

On Pronoun Island: http://pronoun.is/che/chim/chis/chis/chimself


Co

co, co, co's (cos), co's, coself. Mary Orovan created these in 1970, derived from the Indo-European *ko.[9]</ref>[10]

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke co laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug co.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, co's hair grows long. (Or cos hair grows.)
  • Predicative possessive: If I need a phone, my friend lets me borrow co's.
  • Reflexive: Each child feeds coself.

Usage: "Co" is used in some intentional communities, such as in the legal policies of Twin Oaks in Virginia, which provides information on the pronoun in its visitor guide. It is sometimes used as a gender-blind pronoun by people who oppose gendered pronouns.

On Pronoun Island: http://pronoun.is/co/co/co's/co's/coself


E

There are several very similar sets of pronouns with the nominative form of "E," which have been independently proposed or revived over the last hundred years.[11][9] Sets of E pronouns listed in alphabetical order:


E, Em, Eir, Eirs, Emself. These are sometimes called spivak pronouns. In 1990, Michael Spivak used them in his manual, The Joy of TeX, so that no person in his examples had a specified gender. These pronouns became well-known on the Internet because they were built into a popular multi-user chat, LambdaMOO, in 1991. Many users enjoyed choosing pronouns that didn't specify their gender. The pronouns then became a common feature of other multi-user chats made throughout the 1990s. Although many other variations have been attributed to Michael Spivak, this is the actual set Spivak used in The Joy of TeX in 1990 or 1991. Note that he always capitalized all forms of it, but not all users of these pronouns do so. [12] Spivak doesn't indicate whether he created these pronouns, or adopted or adapted them from somewhere else. Spivak is credited with having created these pronouns, although his book doesn't outright say that they're of his own creation. (Compare Elverson's ey pronouns, which are very similar, with only a small spelling difference in the nominative form.)

Use in real life and non-fiction:

  • When a programmer added this pronoun set to LambdaMOO in 1991, he used the same spelling as Spivak, but not capitalized.[13] Regarding LambdaMOO, John Costello wrote, "I know the wizard who originally included the spivak pronouns on the MOO. He says he did it just on a whim after having read the Joy of TeX — he never thought they'd acquire the sexual and political nimbus they have over the years."[12] LambdaMOO's "help spivak" command explains that these pronouns "were developed by mathematician Michael Spivak for use in his books."[14] Programmer Roger "Rog" Crew tested the LambdaMOO system by putting more pronoun options into it in May, 1991, including Spivak's set he remembered from The Joy of TeX. Crew didn't delete the pronouns after testing them, and later expressed "dismay" that the spivak pronouns became popular.[15][16]
  • Spivak pronouns became such a part of 1990s Internet culture that a handbook to that culture, Yib's Guide to Mooing (2003), uses spivak pronouns whenever speaking of a hypothetical person whose gender need not be specified.[17]
  • In Internet environments, spivak was categorized not only as a set of pronouns, but as a gender identity, which Thomas describes: "The spivak gender [...] is more representative of an emotional and intellectual state than of a physical configuration. It should be pointed out at the start that the sexuality available to a spivak is a bonus of online life, but it isn't the raison d'etre. Rather, it's a subtle notion of a gender-free condition. It's not androgynous. It's not unisexual. It's simply ambiguous."[18] Some self-described spivaks use spivak as a proper noun for their non-binary gender identity.

Use in fiction:

  • Steven Shaviro's theoretical fiction novel Doom Patrols (1995-1997) uses spivak pronouns at times.[19]
  • The English translation of Sayuri Ueda's science fiction novel The Cage of Zeus (2011) uses spivak pronouns for genetically engineered characters with non-dyadic bodies and non-binary gender.[20]

Use for real non-binary people:

  • In 1996, 74 out of 7064 users on LambdaMOO went by spivak pronouns, making it the second most popular nonbinary pronoun there.[21] In 2002, 108 out of 4061 users on LambdaMOO used spivak pronouns, making it the most popular neologistic pronoun set there.[12]
  • In 1996, 10 out of 1015 users on MediaMOO went by spivak pronouns, making these the second most popular nonbinary pronoun.[22]
  • The author Bogi "prezzey" Takács goes by spivak pronouns.[23]
  • In the 2016 Nonbinary Stats survey, 7% of participants were happy for people to use Spivak pronouns when referring to them.[7]

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke E laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug Em.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, Eir hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: If I need a phone, my friend lets me borrow Eirs.
  • Reflexive: Each child feeds Emself.

On Pronoun Island: http://pronoun.is/e


e, em, es (e's), (e's), emself. Created in 1890 by James Rogers of Crestview, Florida.[11][9] In about 1977, version where all forms starts with capital letters was independently "created by psychologist Donald G. MacKay of the University of California at Los Angeles."[9] In 1989, independently created by Victor J. Stone, Professor of Law.[9]

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke e laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug em.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, es hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: ?
  • Reflexive: ?


E, em, ir, irs, ?. Created by Anj Kroeger in 1989, in response to a highschool essay prompt on things to change about the English language. Kroeger proposed this gender-neutral pronoun set based on a mixture of "he" and "she" pronouns. Only the nominative form, E, is capitalized. Ir is pronounced like the word "ear." The paper didn't mention a reflexive form.[24]

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke E laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug em.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, ir hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: If I need a phone, my friend lets me borrow irs.
  • Reflexive: ?


e, rim, ris, ?, ?. Created by Werner Low, and printed in a 1977 issue of Washington Post.[9]

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke e laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug rim.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, ris hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: ?
  • Reflexive: ?


Ey (Elverson pronouns)

ey, em, eir, eirs, emself. (Compare the spivak pronoun E, which is very similar, with only a small spelling difference in the nominative form.) Called the Elverson pronouns, these were "created by Christine M. Elverson of Skokie, Illinois, to win a contest in 1975. (Black, Judie, ‘Ey has a word for it’, 1975-08-23.). Promoted as preferable to other major contenders (sie, zie and singular ‘they’) by John Williams's Gender-neutral Pronoun FAQ (2004)."[25]

Use in real life and non-fiction:

  • The Elverson pronouns were used by Eric Klein in the Laws of Oceania, 1993, to be gender-inclusive in a nonfictional micronation. Sometimes this pronoun set is mistakenly called "spivak pronouns," which differ only in the nominative form.
  • In the 2016 Nonbinary Stats survey, 5 of around 3,000 participants were happy for people to use Elverson pronouns when referring to them - around 0.2%.[7]

Use in fiction:

  • CJ Carter's science fiction novel, Que Será Serees (2011) is about a species of people with a single gender, who are all called by Elverson's "ey" pronouns. Carter encourages other authors to use these gender-neutral pronouns.[26][27]
  • In K. A. Cook's short story "Misstery Man," the self-described non-binary character Darcy asks to be called by "ey and eir" pronouns.[28]

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke ey laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug em.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, eir hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: If I need a phone, my friend lets me borrow eirs.
  • Reflexive: Each child feeds emself.

On Pronoun Island: http://pronoun.is/ey


Fae

fae, faer, faer, faers, faerself. A fairy (faery, faerie, fey or Fair Folk) themed set created by Ciel (Tumblr user shadaras) in 2014 (or earlier?)[29] It may also have been independently coined earlier by someone else. This is the most commonly used nounself pronoun set, and it may have been created earlier than them. It may have been what inspired many people to create nounself pronouns in 2014. A similar fairy-themed set is fey, fey, feys, feys, feyself, which was recorded in 2014,[30] of unknown origin.

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke fae laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug faer.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, faer hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: If my mobile phone runs out of power, fae lets me borrow faers.
  • Reflexive: Each child feeds faerself.

Usage:

  • In the 2016 Nonbinary Stats survey, 4% of participants were happy for people to use fae pronouns when referring to them.[7]

On Pronoun Island: http://pronoun.is/fae/faer/faer/faers/faerself


Female pronouns

See She.


He

he, him, his, his, himself. Often called male pronouns, grammarians acknowledge that this standard set of pronouns can also be used as gender-neutral or gender-inclusive pronouns for unspecified persons, such as in instructions and legal documents. In the eighteenth century, when prescriptive grammarians decided that "singular they" was no longer acceptable as a gender-neutral pronoun, they instead recommended "gender-neutral he." "Prescriptive grammarians have been calling for 'he' as the gender-neutral pronoun of choice since at least 1745, when a British schoolmistress named Anne Fisher laid down the law in A New Grammar."[3] The use of "gender-neutral he" can make problems in how laws are interpreted, because it's unclear whether it is meant to be gender-inclusive or male-only. For example, in 1927, "the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that women were not persons because its statutes referred to 'persons' with male pronouns."[31][32] In the USA in the nineteenth century, suffragists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton fought for laws to stop using the "gender-neutral he," because there were cases where this pronoun had been arbitrarily interpreted as a "male he" in order to exclude women from legal protections, or from the right to a license that they had passed exams for. This abuse of legal language happened even in if the documents explicitly said that "he" was meant to include women.[3] Thanks to work in the 1970s by feminists Casey Miller and Kate Swift, "gender-neutral he" has been significantly phased out of use, replaced by the more inclusive he or she.[33]

Use for real non-binary people: There are non-binary people who ask to be called by "he" pronouns, such as comedian Eddie Izzard, writer Richard O'Brien, songwriter Antony Hegarty, and guitarist Pete Townshend.

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke he laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug him.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, his hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: If I need a phone, my friend lets me borrow his.
  • Reflexive: Each child feeds himself.

On Pronoun Island: http://pronoun.is/he

Usage:

  • In the 2016 Nonbinary Stats survey, 23% of participants were happy for people to use he pronouns when referring to them.[7]


It

it, it, its, its, itself. This standard English set of genderless pronouns is used for inanimate objects, animals, and human infants. During Dickens’ time, these were also acceptable pronouns for older human children and spirits of the dead, as these permutations of humanity were seen as not really male or female. This pronoun is not male or female. Using it for an adult human is often seen as an insult, dehumanizing. While considered offensive by most, some nonbinary people use "it" as a means of reclamation and to challenge the idea that genderlessness is inherently dehumanizing.

Because "it" pronouns are the default on LamdaMOO and on similar multi-user environments, they tend to be common there, but less common than "he" or "she." In 1996, "it" pronouns were the most popular non-binary pronoun choice on LambdaMOO (1162 out of 7065 player characters) and MediaMOO (280 out of 1015 player characters).[34]

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke it laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug it.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, its hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: If I need a phone, my friend lets me borrow its.
  • Reflexive: Each child feeds itself.

Usage:

  • In the 2016 Nonbinary Stats survey, 5% of participants were happy for people to use it pronouns when referring to them.[7]

On Pronoun Island: http://pronoun.is/it


Male pronouns

See he.


Memevector

See ze, em, zeir, zeirs, zeirself.


Name

See no pronouns or Nounself pronouns.


Ne

Several sets of pronouns use "ne" in the nominative form. In alphabetical order:


ne, nem, nir, nirs, nemself. In Spectra, a science fiction comic by Cori Walters, characters with nonbinary genders are called by these pronouns. Walters uses this pronoun for one of the three gender roles in a species that has only one sex, and all people voluntarily choose their gender roles. The comic started in 2013 and is still in progress.[35]

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke ne laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug nem.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, nir hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: If I need a phone, my friend lets me borrow nirs.
  • Reflexive: Each child feeds nemself.


ne, ner, nis, nis, nemself. In a 1974 issue of Today's Education, "Mildred Fenner attributes this to Fred Wilhelms."[9][11] Veterinarian Al Lippart independently proposed the same set of pronouns in 1999, recommending them for use when it would be inappropriate to specify the gender of a human, animal, or deity.[36]Lawyer Roberta Morris also independently proposed this same set of pronouns in 2009, saying that these pronouns would be more efficient for within the 140 character limit of Twitter than "he or she." Morris also pointed out that the "n" can refer to "neuter."[37]

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke ne laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug ner.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, nis hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: If I need a phone, my friend lets me borrow nis.
  • Reflexive: Each child feeds nemself.


ne, nim, nis, ?, ?. Created around 1850,[11] and appeared in print in 1884.[9]

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke ne laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug nim.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, nis hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: ?
  • Reflexive: ?

Usage:

  • In the 2016 Nonbinary Stats survey, ten different pronouns starting with ne were entered by 16 participants.[7]

No pronouns

Many people prefer not to be referred to by pronouns, and may feel dysphoria otherwise. Thirty-six percent of the lottelodge survey answered "Just my name" to the question "What are your preferred pronouns?". (Multiple answers were permitted.)

While the grammatical labels on the sample sentences below are no longer correct, the sentences can be adjusted to exclude pronouns while still talking about a specific person.

  • Nominative: (Demonstrative + noun replaces pronoun) When I tell someone a joke, that person laughs.
  • Accusative: (Eliminated second reference to the person) I greet my friend with a hug.
  • Pronominal possessive: (Replaced with an "it" that technically has no antecedent but clearly refers to the possessed thing) When someone does not get a haircut, it grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: (Possessive eliminated) If my mobile phone runs out of power, my friend lends me another.
  • Reflexive: (Reflexive emphasizing independence replaced with adverb) Each child gets food independently.

Using names or descriptions without changing the sentence structure:

  • Nominative: When I tell Taylor a joke Taylor laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet Sylvia I hug Sylvia.
  • Pronominal possessive: When the kid does not get a haircut, the kid's hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: If I need a phone, my friend lets me borrow the friend's.
  • Reflexive: Larry feeds Larry.

Other noteworthy techniques for removing third-person pronouns from a sentence include

  • Passive voice: "Taylor's mopping the kitchen. When ? finishes, we'll go for a walk" becomes "Taylor's mopping the kitchen. When it's done, we'll go for a walk." Here "it" refers to the kitchen or maybe the task of mopping, and we use passive voice because there's no need to repeat who's doing it.
  • Second person: Instead of talking about someone in third person, why not talk to them instead? Say you're talking to Kevin and Elisa, who prefers no third-person pronouns, is in the room. You could tell Kevin, "I'd love to go with you for coffee, but Elisa's already claimed me for the evening," but if you do that and want to start expanding on what Elisa's up to, you might be tempted to use third-person pronouns. Instead you could shift to Elisa and say "but you've got me booked for the evening," and then Elisa could tell about the plans without being spoken for.

Usage:

  • In the 2016 Nonbinary Stats survey, 11% of participants were happy for people to avoid using pronouns when referring to them, and a further 5 people specified that they want people to use their name as a pronoun.[7]


One

one, one, one’s, one’s, oneself. This is a standard English set of pronouns used for a hypothetical person whose gender is not specified.

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke one laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug one.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, one's hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: If I need a phone, my friend lets me borrow one's.
  • Reflexive: Each child feeds oneself.

Usage:

  • In the 2016 Nonbinary Stats survey, only 3 participants were happy for people to use the pronoun one when referring to them.[7]


Otherkin pronouns

See nounself pronouns.


Ou

ou, ou, ous, ous, ouself. A set of singular gender-neutral pronouns that were first recorded in a native English dialect the sixteenth century. "In 1789, William H. Marshall records the existence of a dialectal English epicene pronoun, singular ou: '"Ou will" expresses either he will, she will, or it will.' Marshall traces ou to Middle English epicene a, used by the fourteenth-century English writer John of Trevisa, and both the OED and Wright's English Dialect Dictionary confirm the use of a for he, she, it, they, and even I."

Use in fiction: In K. A. Cook's short story "The Differently Animated and Queer Society," the character Moon asks to be called by "ou" pronouns.[38]

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke ou laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug ou.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, ous hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: If I need a phone, my friend lets me borrow ous.
  • Reflexive: Each child feeds ouself.


Per

per (person), per, per, pers, perself. Called "person pronouns," these are meant to be used for a person of any gender. Compare Phelps's phe pronouns, which are also based on the word "person." John Clark created "per" pronouns in a 1972 issue of the Newsletter of the American Anthropological Association.[9]

Use in real life and non-fiction: Person pronouns were one of the sets of pronouns built in to MediaMOO for users to choose from.[39] Richard Ekins and Dave King used these pronouns in the book The Transgender Phenomenon (2006).[40]

Use in fiction: In Marge Piercy's feminist novel, Woman on the Edge of Time, 1976, Piercy used "per" pronouns for all citizens of a utopian future in which gender was no longer seen as a big difference between people.[12]

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke per laughs. (Or person laughs.)
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug per.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, per hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: If I need a phone, my friend lets me borrow pers.
  • Reflexive: Each child feeds perself.

Usage: Despite its apparently extensive use in literature, in the 2016 Nonbinary Stats survey, only one participant was happy for people to use the pronoun per when referring to per.[7]

On Pronoun Island: http://pronoun.is/per


Racial pronouns

In Douglas Hofstadter's short satirical essay, "A Person Paper on Purity in Language," the fictional William Satire describes a world in which racism is so pervasive that even pronouns have long been based around race instead of gender. In Person Paper, William Satire criticizes an equally fictional activist (apparently modeled after the non-fictional Casey Miller) who had taken an objection "to the age-old differentiation of whites from blacks by the third-person pronouns 'whe' and 'ble.' Ble promotes an absurd notion: that what we really need in English is a single pronoun covering both races. Numerous suggestions have been made, such as 'pe,' 'tey,' and others, These are all repugnant to the nature of the English language, as the average white in the street will testify, even if whe has no linguistic training whatsoever."[41] In the essay's hypothesized world, where racism is even more deeply embedded in language than it is in the real world, non-racist language and race-neutral pronouns are seen as controversial changes. Hofstadter uses this imagined scenario to make it visible to us how much sexism is in our language. It demonstrates how the pervasiveness of discriminatory language is taken for granted and used to undermine oppressed peoples. The essay is effective in its intention to show how pervasive sexism is in real life. However, despite the essay's best efforts, it still downplays how racism actually does pervade language and daily life, and therefore makes racism look as if it was a smaller problem than sexism. This flaw is an example of a ethnicity and culture#false comparison, where making a comparison between racism and sexism means overlooking important differences between them.

These pronouns were never meant to be used. Don't use them. In real life, nobody has proposed racial pronouns in earnest.


She

she, her, her, hers, herself. Often called female pronouns, although in standard usage, they're not used exclusively for women. Grammarians agree that it is standard and acceptable for this set to be used for women, female animals, and ships. The set is also poetically used for countries and fields of studies, which grammarians also see as acceptable. Some feminists recommend replacing "gender-neutral he" with "gender-neutral she." "In 1970, Dana Densmore’s article “Speech is the Form of Thought” appeared in No More Fun and Games: A Journal of Female Liberation; Densmore is evidently the first U.S. advocate of 'she' as a gender-neutral pronoun, a solution many writers, particularly academic writers, favor today."[3] 1974, Gena Corea recommended replacing the "gender-neutral he" with a "gender-neutral she," and like Denmore, argued that the word "she" would be understood to include the word "he."[9]

Use as a gender-neutral pronoun in fiction:

  • Anne Leckie's science fiction novels Ancillary Justice (2013) and Ancillary Sword (2014) were set in a futuristic society that is indifferent to gender, so all the characters are called by gender-neutral "she" pronouns, leaving their actual gender and sex undisclosed. Leckie says she had an assumption at the time that gender is binary, so these are likely not non-binary characters.[42]
  • Cartoonist Rebecca Sugar explained that in her animated science fiction series, Steven Universe, the alien people called Gems really have no sex or gender, even though they all look like women. For this reason, the Gems are only arbitrarily called by "she" pronouns. Sugar said, "Technically, there are no female Gems! There are only Gems! [...] Why not look like human females? That's just what Gems happen to look like! [...] There's a 50 50 chance to use some pronoun on Earth, so why not feminine ones-- it's as convenient as it is arbitrary!"[43] This is a gender-neutral use of "she" pronouns.


Use for real non-binary people: There are non-binary gender people who ask people to use "she" pronouns for them, such as actor Rain Dove, singer-songwriter Ellie Jackson, musician JD Samson, singer Kieran Strange, and actor Tilda Swinton.

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke she laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug her.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, her hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: If I need a phone, my friend lets me borrow hers.
  • Reflexive: Each child feeds herself.

Usage:

  • In the 2016 Nonbinary Stats survey, 25% of participants were happy for people to use he pronouns when referring to them.[7]

On Pronoun Island: http://pronoun.is/she


Singular They

See They.


Spivak

See E.


They

they, them, their, theirs, themself (or theirself, theirselves, or themselves). These are standard English pronouns for speaking of groups. Grammarians question and debate the validity of also using this set as "singular they," a gender-neutral pronoun for an individual whose gender isn't specified, because they feel unsatisfied by how it still works grammatically like a plural. (Similar to how we say "you are," even when referring to a singular "you.") However, "singular they" has been common usage in English for over a thousand years, as attested by many written documents. It was used so by Shakespeare, Jane Austen, the Oxford English Dictionary, Louis Carroll, C. S. Lewis, and others. Grammaticians only recently decided that it was ungrammatical to use in the singular, because it is still used with verbs as though it was a plural.[44] Though the grammar may be questionable, it is still standard use today.

Singular "they" gets a surprising number of complaints, considering people use it all the time for people whose gender is unknown. ("So, your doctor, what have they prescribed?" etc.) However, there are a lot of arguments that it's correct. This article on Motivated Grammar goes through a few reasons, including the fact that it's consistently been in use since Chaucer's time, around 1400.

A most comprehensive article about the history of singular "they" is Henry Churchyard's web-page, Singular 'Their' in Jane Austen and Elsewhere.

Most people are familiar with how singular "they" works, as plenty of people use it all the time without really thinking about it.

There are several versions of the reflexive form of this pronoun: "themself," "theirself," "theirselves," and "themselves." The Oxford Dictionary says that "themself" has been used since the 14th century for a person of unknown sex.[45] Dictionary.com says that "theirself" has also been used for this since about 1300.[46] The Free Dictionary adds that "theirself" and "theirselves" are more common in southern and midland US English.[47] Because both of these are for talking about a single person, they're both considered non-standard or informal usage, despite the hundreds of years of common usage. The plural form of "themselves" is supposed to be more formal, but can sound strange when used for a single person, because they are not several "selves," but one "self". This is another part of the plural/singular "they" problem. People differ about which version of the reflexive form they prefer. If someone asks to be called by "they" pronouns, it might be a good idea to ask which form of the reflexive form they prefer.

Use as a singular in fiction:

  • In a short sci-fi story by Benjanun Sriduangkaew, "Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade" (2013), one of the characters is described as a "neutrois," and called by "they" pronouns.[48][49]
  • In Kameron Hurley's fantasy novel, Empire Ascendant, all people in a consent culture get to choose which of the five gender roles they identify with. Hurley calls characters who are "ungendered" by singular they pronouns.[50]
  • In K. A. Cook's anthology Crooked Words, the character Chris asks to be called by "they" pronouns. Chris is in the short stories "Blue Paint, Chocolate and Other Similes" and "Everything In A Name."[51]

Use for real non-binary people: Some nonbinary people ask to be called by "singular they" pronouns, including writer Ivan E. Coyote, actor Tom Phelan, actor Jiz Lee, singer-songwriter Rae Spoon, and rapper Raeen Roes. Deborah Rogers mentions having a trans male student who asked to be called by "they" pronouns.[52]

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke they laugh.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug them.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, their hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: If I need a phone, my friend lets me borrow theirs.
  • Reflexive: Each child feeds themself. Or: each child feeds theirself. Or: each child feeds theirselves. Or: each child feeds themselves.

Usage:

  • In the 2016 Nonbinary Stats survey, singular they got the highest number of people happy for others to refer to them using they, 77%.[7]

On Pronoun Island: http://pronoun.is/they

Thon

thon, thon, thons, thon's, thonself. Charles Crozat Converse of Erie, Pennsylvania proposed this pronoun in 1858, based on a contraction of "that one."[53] (The Gender-Neutral Pronoun FAQ gives this pronoun's date as 1884 instead.)[11] The "thon" pronoun was included in Webster's International Dictionary (1910). "Thon" was used throughout the writings by the founders of chiropractic, B.J. and D.D. Palmer, in 1910, and is therefore familiar to chiropractors.[54]

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke thon laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug thon.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, thons hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: If I need a phone, my friend lets me borrow thon's.
  • Reflexive: Each child feeds thonself.

Usage:

  • In the 2016 Nonbinary Stats survey, one person out of over 3,000 said that they were happy for people to use thon to refer to thon.[7]

On Pronoun Island: http://pronoun.is/they


Ve

There are several sets of pronouns that use "ve" in the nominative form, the earliest of which was created in 1970. Listed in alphabetical order:


ve, ver, vis, vis, verself. A set of pronouns used-- but not created-- by Greg Egan for non-binary gender characters-- including artificial intelligences, as well as transgender humans who identify as a specific nonbinary gender they call "asex"-- in his novels Distress (1995) and Diaspora (1998).[55] In Alastair Reynolds's science fiction novel On the Steel Breeze, one character is called by these ve pronouns. The novel never gives any exposition about this character's sex, gender, or pronouns, and ver gender-neutrality doesn't influence the plot. The lack of remark gives the impression that a nonbinary gender is unremarkable, but this is also why some readers thought the pronouns were a misprint.[56] In Keri Hulme's mystery novel The Bone People (1984), a character is called by these ve pronouns.[57]

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke ve laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug ver.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, vis hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: If I need a phone, my friend lets me borrow virs.
  • Reflexive: Each child feeds verself.

On Pronoun Island: http://pronoun.is/ve


ve, vir, vis, ?, ?. Created in 1970, and published in the May issue of Everywoman.[11][9]

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke ve laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug vir.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, vis hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: ?
  • Reflexive: ?


ve, vim, vis, ?, ?. Appeared in print in a 1974 issue of Washington Post.[11][9]

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke ve laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug vim.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, vis hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: ?
  • Reflexive: ?

Usage:

  • In the 2016 Nonbinary Stats survey, seven people entered seven entirely different sets of pronouns starting with ve.[7]


Whe

See racial pronouns.


Xe

There are several similar sets of neologistic gender-neutral pronouns that use "xe," "ze," "zhe," or "zie" in nominative form. Regardless of spelling, their nominative form is pronounced "zee," and was based on the pronoun sie. The earliest documented version was created in 1972.[9] In alphabetical order, versions of this pronoun set include:


xe, hir, hir, hirs, hirself. Compare the similar "ze, hir..." set, which is apparently used in more literature and by more people. The "xe" version was "Used on alt.support.intergendered and alt.support.crossdressing," transgender communities on the Internet in the 1990s.[58]

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke xe laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug hir.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, hir hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: If I need a phone, my friend lets me borrow hirs.
  • Reflexive: Each child feeds hirself.


xe, xir, xir, xirs, xirself. This pronoun set saw some use on the Internet at least as early as 1998.[59]

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke xe laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug xir.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, xir hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: If I need a phone, my friend lets me borrow xirs.
  • Reflexive: Each child feeds xirself.


xe, xyr (xem), xyr, xyrs, xyrself (xemself). This pronoun set appears in 1993 in a conversation in an autism mailing list on the Internet.[60][61] The "xem" version of this pronoun set appears in a printed discussion from the mailing list of Autism Network International in 2000, with the explanation that it "was originally used to refer to an intersexed person, but is also used to refer to a person of any gender."[62] This pronoun set was recommended in 2005 by Jonathan de Boyne Pollard, with the version that includes "xem," and both "xyrself" and "xemself."[63]

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke xe laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug xem. (Or hug xyr.)
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, xyr hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: If I need a phone, my friend lets me borrow xyrs.
  • Reflexive: Each child feeds xyrself. (Or feeds xemself.)

Usage:

  • In the 2016 Nonbinary Stats survey, 10% of people said they'd be happy for people to use xe/xem/xyr/xyrs/xemself to refer to them.[7]

On Pronoun Island: http://pronoun.is/xe


Yo

yo, (N/A), (N/A), (N/A), (N/A) In addition to an interjection and greeting, "yo" is a gender-neutral pronoun in a dialect of African-American Vernacular English spoken by middle school students in Baltimore, Maryland, the student body of which is 97% African-American. These students had spontaneously created the pronoun as early as 2004, and commonly used it. A study by Stotko and Troyer in 2007 examined this pronoun. The speakers used "yo" only for same-age peers, not adults or authorities. They thought of it as a slang word that was informal, but they also thought if it as just as acceptable as "he" or "she". "Yo" was used for people whose gender was unknown, as well as for specific people whose gender was known, often while using a pointing gesture at the person in question. The researchers collected examples of the word in use, such as "yo threw a thumbtack at me," "you acting like I said what yo said," and "she ain't really go with yo." The researchers only collected examples of "yo" used in the nominative form. That is, they found no possessive forms such as "yo's," and no reflexive forms such as "yoself." As such, "yo" pronouns might be used only in nominative form, similar to another native English gender-neutral pronoun, "a." Either that, or these forms exist, and the researchers just didn't collect them.[64][65]

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke yo laughs.
  • Accusative: (N/A?)
  • Pronominal possessive: (N/A?)
  • Predicative possessive: (N/A?)
  • Reflexive: (N/A?)


Ze

There are several similar sets of neologistic gender-neutral pronouns that use "xe," "ze," "zhe," or "zie" in nominative form. Regardless of spelling, their nominative form is pronounced "zee," and was based on the pronoun sie. The earliest documented version was created in 1972.[9] In alphabetical order, versions of this pronoun set include:


ze, hir, hir, hirs, hirself. Compare the similar "xe, hir..." set, which is the version less attested by print sources. Sarah Dopp wrote a blog post about the "ze" version in 2006.[66] Leslie Feinberg also used the "ze" version in the book Drag King Dreams (2006),[67] Erika Lopez used the "ze" version in The Girl Must Die: A Monster Girl Memoir (2010).[68] M. J. Locke used the "ze" version in the book Up Against It (2011).[69]

Use in real life and non-fiction: Kate Bornstein used them in the books Nearly Roadkill (1996) (with Caitlin Sullivan June)[70], and My Gender Workbook (1998) in reference to hirself, and to other specific transgender people, as well as hypothetical persons of unspecified gender.[71]

Use in fiction:

  • Kameron Hurley used these pronouns in the fantasy novels The Mirror Empire and Empire Ascendant, for characters who are ataisa, an in-between gender role where their culture puts everyone who has a nonbinary gender.[72]
  • In Seth Dickinson's short science fiction story, "Sekhmet Hunts the Dying Gnosis: A Computation" (2014), a transhuman character of "uncertain ... sex" is called by the pronoun "ze," which only appears in the nominative form.[73]
  • In K. A. Cook's short story "Blue Paint, Chocolate and Other Similes," in Crooked Words, when the narrator Ben recognizes that Chris identifies as nonbinary, Ben begins using "ze, hir" pronouns for Chris, before finding a good moment to ask for Chris's actual pronoun preference.[74] In another story by K. A. Cook, "The Differently Animated and Queer Society," the character Pat goes by "ze, hir" pronouns, and uses them for other characters before finding out each of their own pronoun preferences.[75]
  • The Len'en Wiki, an English wiki about a Japanese video game series, uses these pronouns as standard because nearly all the characters in the game series do not have a known gender.

Use for real non-binary people: Kate Bornstein goes by these "ze, hir" pronouns. Leslie Feinberg asked to be called by "ze, hir" pronouns, along with "zie, hir" and "she."[76] In a magazine interview from 2014, Gabriel Antonio and another anonymous person both asked to be called by these pronouns.[77]

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke ze laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug hir.
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, hir hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: If I need a phone, my friend lets me borrow hirs.
  • Reflexive: Each child feeds hirself.

Usage:

  • In the 2016 Nonbinary Stats survey, 9% of people said they'd be happy for people to use "zie/hir/hir/hirs/hirself, or some variation thereof" to refer to them.[7]

On Pronoun Island: http://pronoun.is/ze


Zie

zie, zir (zim), zir, zirs, zirself. (Compare the most similar pronoun set, "ze, zir", and other similar pronouns, "xe" and "zhe".) The Gender Neutral Pronoun FAQ says this set (with the "zie" spelling, and accusative "zir") was widely used on the Internet at the time, but doesn't know when it was created.[78] Andrés Pérez-Bergquist recommended this set (with the "zie" spelling, and accusative "zim") in 2000, but claims not to have created it.[79]This set (with the "zie" spelling, and accusative "zir") is in the fantasy setting of Bard Bloom's World Tree, for the many characters with sexes other than female or male. Many species in this setting have such sexes, including the protagonist of a book in that setting, Sythyry's Journal, which was first serialized as a blog starting in 2002. The setting also has a role-playing game handbook, World Tree: A role playing game of species and civilization (2001).

Forms:

  • Nominative: When I tell someone a joke zie laughs.
  • Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug zir. (Or hug zim.)
  • Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, zir hair grows long.
  • Predicative possessive: If I need a phone, my friend lets me borrow zirs.
  • Reflexive: Each child feeds zirself.

Usage:

  • In the 2016 Nonbinary Stats survey, 8 people (around 0.3%) said they'd be happy for people to use zie/zir (or some similar spelling) to refer to them.[7]

On Pronoun Island: http://pronoun.is/zie

Esperanto neutral pronouns

Normally, Esperanto doesn't have any neutral pronouns for people, only female or male. Some proposed grammatical reforms suggest adding a neutral pronoun. The problem with reforms is that the mean that, since you're not speaking dictionary Esperanto, many speakers won't understand you. Esperanto is supposed to be so uniform that everyone speaks it the same and can understand it. For more information about this issue, see Wikipedia's article gender reform in Esperanto.

Some proposed gender-neutral pronouns in non-standard Esperanto include:

gi. "A popular proposal because it is iconic: in writing, it resembles ĝi, which it also resembles in meaning, and it is similar to the occasionally epicene prefix ge-. This makes it readily recognizable. Also along these lines is the use of the epicene prefix itself, geli."[80]

hi. Proposed "so that the gendered pronouns hi and ŝi both derive from English."[80]

li. A common proposed neutral pronoun that is "related to the epicene plural ili 'they'".[80]

ri. "Riist Esperanto," or "Riisim," is a grammatical reform to Esperanto that makes the language more gender-neutral in several ways. One of these changes is to replace the gendered pronouns entirely with the neutral pronoun ri. This was popular for some time for the Esperanto community on the Internet in the 1990s.[80]

ŝli (sxli). "Instantly recognizable to most Esperantists ... This is just the reading pronunciation of the abbreviation ŝ/li, the equivalent of English "s/he", and is not infrequently seen in informal writing."[80]

Estonian neutral pronouns

Some neutral pronouns in Estonian language (eesti keel) include:

tema, teda, tema. Formal.[1]

ta, teda, tema.[1]

Finnish neutral pronouns

The Finnish language (suomen kieli) doesn't have grammatical gender. There are no pronouns that specifically mean "she" or "he". Everyone is called by the genderless pronoun hän.

hän, hänen. Formal.[1]

se, sen. Means "it." Informal.[1]

French neutral pronouns

In French, talking about one's self or another person in a gender-neutral way requires using created pronouns since the language only have two genders (feminine and masculine). These pronouns are not used officially, but are more and more used in gender-inclusive texts and spaces, along with gender-inclusive grammar rules for adjectives.

ile. A mix of the French words "il" ("he") and "elle" ("she"). Some nonbinary people in France go by this pronoun. In 2015, an intersex adult in Tours won the right to change their birth certificate to say "gender neutral". The news mentioned that this person went by "ile" pronouns.[81]

ille, illes A mix between "il" ("he") and "elle" ("she") that can be used in a written text but that can not be easily said out loud.[82]

iel, iels. A mix between "il" ("he") and "elle" ("she") that can be easily said out loud.[82]

yel. A mix between "il" ("he") and "elle" ("she") that can be easily said out loud.[82]

el, els. A mix between "il" ("he") and "elle" ("she") but that can't be used out loud since it would sound exactly like the feminine pronoun "elle".[82]

yol. [82]

ol, ols. [82]

ul, uls. [82]

German neutral pronouns

People have proposed these neutral pronouns for in the German language (Deutsch):

em.

er*.[1]

er_sie.[1]

es. This means "it," and isn't usually used for people. Only use this pronoun for people who ask to be called by it. Some nonbinary people do reclaim it for themselves.[1][83]

hän.[84]

man. This is like "one" in English.[85]

nin.[86]

per.[87]

sie. Usually, when this pronoun is used for a person, it means "she." However, it can also mean "they," so some people use it as a neutral pronoun, like "they" in English.[88]

sie*.[1]

sie_er.[1]

sie_r.[1]

sier.[1]

si*er.[89]

si:er.[90]

si_er.[1][91]

sif.[92]

x.[1] Has been criticised for being racist when used by white people.[93]

xier, xies, xiem, xien, dier. For a person of any gender. Xier, instead of she, he or it, pronounced [ksi:ɐ̯]; xies/xiese/xieser…, a possessive pronoun instead of ihr and sein; and dier, an article and relative pronoun, instead of die and der, pronounced [ksi:zɐ], and [di:ɐ̯]. [94] [1] [95] [1]

For examples of how to use some of these, go here.

Portuguese neutral pronouns

See also: gender neutral language - Portuguese and glossary of Portuguese gender and sex terminology.

The Portuguese language (português) doesn't normally have neutral pronouns. However, people have created some new, neutral pronouns, which are used in some groups. These include:

elæ, delæ. This uses an æ (ae) to show ambiguity of the letter.[1]

el@, del@. This uses an @ (at symbol) to show ambiguity of the letter.[1]

elx, delx. This uses an x to show ambiguity of the letter. This only works in writing. It can't be said out loud.[1]

Spanish neutral pronouns

See also: gender neutral language - Spanish and glossary of Spanish gender and sex terminology.

The Spanish language (español) doesn't normally have neutral pronouns. However, people have created some new, neutral pronouns, which are used in some groups that are sensitive about LGBT, feminist, and social justice issues. Most of these neutral pronouns work by taking the feminine pronoun, ella, and the standard abstract neuter pronoun ello (which can't be used for people), and substituting a different letter or symbol for the masculine "o" or feminine "a" ending. This approach of substituting a letter is shared by creating other parts of gender neutral language in Spanish, such as neutral-gender endings for adjectives. See gender neutral language - Spanish for information about that. These new, neutral pronouns include:

ele. A neutral pronoun that is a mix of the masculine pronoun él ("he") and a proposed gender-neutral ending letter, -e. This is less common. The plural would be elles.[96]

ell_. A neutral pronoun that can't be said out loud. This is less common. The _ (underscore) means that the "a" or "o" is left out.[1]

ell*. A neutral pronoun that can't be said out loud. This is less common. The * (asterisk) means that the "a" or "o" is left out. Compare the splat *e pronouns in English, which work by the same idea.[1]

ellæ. A neutral pronoun. This is less common.[1]

ell@. A neutral pronoun that can't be said out loud, or else is pronounced like "ellao". This is non-standard, but one of the most common of these. The @ (at symbol) is meant to be seen as a mix between an "a" and an "o".[1]

elle. A neutral pronoun that can be easily said out loud. This is non-standard, but one of the most common of these.[1] It's used by nonbinary people in Chile.[97]

elli. A neutral pronoun that can be said out loud. It's uncommonly used.[1]

ellu. A neutral pronoun that can be said out loud. It's uncommonly used.[1]

ellx. A neutral pronoun that can't be said out loud. This non-standard, but one of the more common of these. Note that, unlike English coinages such as "princex," which is only for people of color, a neutral x in Spanish is not only for people of color. "Ellx" can be used by white people as well.[1]

ol. A neutral pronoun. Non-standard and uncommon. The plural would be olles. This would go with the non-standard definite article that is also ol.[98]

Swedish neutral pronouns

Visual illustration of the two gendered personal pronouns in Swedish, hon ("she") and han ("he"), alongside the gender-neutral hen.

In 2014, the Swedish language (Svenska) officially added a new gender-neutral pronoun, hen, which is popular among Swedish-speaking nonbinary people.

de, dem (dom), deras.[1]

den, den, dens (dess). Means 'it'. This isn't usually used for humans.[1]

hen, hen (henom), hens (henoms). This neutral pronoun was first proposed in 1966, and then independently in 1994, based on the Finnish neutral pronoun hän. It came to be used in magazines and books during the 2000s and 2010s. In 2014, it was officially added to the language. Hen is used for people whose gender is not known, as well as for nonbinary people who ask to be called by this pronoun. It's not meant to replace the gendered pronouns hon ("she") and han ("he"), but to exist together with them. For more information, see the Wikipedia entry on hen.


Use for non-binary people

Although many gender-neutral pronouns were created to speak of no specific person, some non-binary people adopt these pronouns for themselves. They ask that other people call them only by one particular set of gender-neutral pronouns. This can be a part of a non-binary person's social transition.


Examples of specific non-binary people's pronouns

Some non-binary people ask to be called by gender-neutral pronouns. Other non-binary people ask to be called by "he" or "she" pronouns, some of whom see that as a gender-neutral use of those words. The use of binary pronouns doesn't necessarily mean that someone has a binary gender identity. Some non-binary people have more than one set of pronouns that they are okay with people using for them.

He. Some specific non-binary people who ask to be called by "he" pronouns include comedian Eddie Izzard, writer Richard O'Brien, songwriter Antony Hegarty, and guitarist Pete Townshend.

She. Non-binary gender people who ask people to use "she" pronouns for them include actor Rain Dove, singer-songwriter Ellie Jackson, musician JD Samson, singer Kieran Strange, activist Kate Bornstein (who also goes by "they")[99] and actor Tilda Swinton.

They. Some nonbinary people ask to be called by "singular they" pronouns, including writer Ivan E. Coyote, actor Tom Phelan, actor Jiz Lee, singer-songwriter Rae Spoon, and rapper Raeen Roes.

Other pronouns. Nonbinary people who go by other pronouns include singer Mx Justin Vivian Bond, who goes by v pronouns. "Ze, hir" pronouns are the preferred pronouns of revolutionary communist Leslie Feinberg (who also went by she)[100].

Surveys

There have been a few surveys on gender-neutral pronouns and pronoun preferences.

How to change your pronouns

If you are nonbinary and want to change your pronouns, this is a purely social part of your transition, rather than one using paperwork. First, you need to put a lot of thought into choosing pronouns that feel satisfactory to you. Research and experiment to find out what feels right. Next, you need to tell other people. As a part of social transition, you need cooperation from other people in order to be called by the pronouns you want, so it's important to keep your composure as well as stay firm. You can help remind people of your pronouns by wearing them on a badge or writing them in your Twitter profile.


Choosing your pronouns

First, form your opinions on what you want from your new pronouns. Next, list your favorite pronouns, and compare them to your opinions so that you can list their pros and cons. Meanwhile, test your favorite pronouns out loud and in writing, to see how they feel to you in action.


Form opinions

The first step of choosing your pronouns is to form your criteria for what you want from your pronouns. Some traits are mutually exclusive, so you need to weigh your own opinions about what you think makes a good or personally suitable pronoun. Here is a sample list of criteria you could consider. Copy this list into another document, and write numbers next to the criteria to rank them by their priority to you. Think about what traits matter to you, even if they are not on this list.

  • You want to be basically the only person with these pronouns
  • You want to have these pronouns in common with many real people
  • Pronounceable, easy to say out loud
  • Easy to spell
  • No rare letters
  • Fits into a sentence seamlessly
  • Accessible, easy for people to use who have trouble with English
  • Old, created a long time ago
  • New
  • Commonly used
  • Rare
  • Unique and creative
  • Sounds like a mix of "she" and "he" pronouns
  • Doesn't sound at all like "she" or "he", to get more distance from the gender binary
  • Sounds like a standard English pronoun, but with a twist
  • Part of native English
  • Symbolic, describes you or your gender
  • Sounds like your name
  • Sounds like the word for your gender
  • Sounds cool, tough, pretty, whimsical, serious, or something else like that
  • Associated with your interests, community, or culture
  • Part of a dialect
  • Culturally neutral
  • Your friends and family like them
  • Easy to persuade other people that it's okay to use these pronouns for you
  • Satisfactory to people who are strict about grammar
  • Slangy, fits well into informal speech
  • Fits well into formal writing

The above list is only an example. If you like, you can use it as inspiration to create your own list from scratch.


Compare them

Next, after you decide what criteria you want for your pronouns, browse the alphabetical list of all pronouns above. Write down a list of the ones you like. Put them in a table, with columns for what you see as the good and bad traits of those pronouns. After you finish assessing them all, write down your concluding opinion about each in the last column. Here is a small example of such a table.

Pronoun Pros Cons Conclusion
ve, verself Used in a book I like Doesn't sound right to me Maybe no
E, Emself Common, easy to say Too short? Maybe yes

You can use the above table as your template. Create your own table in a word processor, or draw it by hand in your journal. Although the above table only compares two sets of pronouns, you can add rows for as many pronouns that interest you. You don't need to form your conclusions on all pronouns in one sitting. Perhaps over the course of a few days, take your time to form your opinions on each pronoun set, and return periodically to add more notes to your pronoun table.


Test them

At the same time as you work on the above table of pros and cons, test the pronouns that you might like. Try them in several ways: in writing, out loud, and in reference to you. If you have friends who understand, test out having them call you by these pronouns for a little while. You can help your friends with this by wearing a pronoun badge (see below). You can also test how your pronouns look in writing by using web-sites that put them into a text. Such sites include Failedslacker's Pronoun Dressing Room and PracticeWithPronouns.com. You may find that you feel differently about the pronouns when they are in action, and when they are in reference to you.


Announcing your change of pronouns

When you have settled on your favorite set of pronouns, you need to tell people, so they can start using them for you. Announce it to them by a handwritten letter, e-mail, or blog post. Keep your message polite, and say "please" and "thank you." In order to be complete, and to address the first questions the reader might ask, your announcement should include these parts:

  • Opening: Assuming that you have already come out to these people as nonbinary, your announcement message should open with a reminder of that, as part of the explanation for why you want to change your pronouns.
  • List all the grammatical forms of your new pronouns.
  • Show people how to use these pronouns by giving an example of them in use in a sentence or several.
  • You might tell how to pronounce the pronouns.
  • Briefly say why you chose these pronouns rather than others.
  • If you use two sets of pronouns, explain which set is more appropriate, under what conditions.
  • Conclusion: Request that people use these pronouns for you.

Based on the above, here is a sample letter of a fictional person announcing their pronoun change. You can use it as a template for writing your own.


Dear Stuart,
As you know, I have a nonbinary gender identity, meaning that I don't think of myself as a woman or a man. I'm transitioning to a gender expression that feels more like the real me. Since being called "he" or "she" doesn't feel right to me, I have decided to change my pronouns to singular they (they, them, their, theirs, themself). For an example of these pronouns in a couple sentences: "They are Morgan, that's them. They will read their book by themself". I like these singular gender-neutral pronouns the best because they were used by Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and other great writers. They have been a part of English for a long time. From now on, please call me by "they" pronouns, instead of "he" or "she".
Thank you,
Mx Morgan Doe


You can also use the above sample letter as a template for writing an e-mail, just by leaving out the signature. Use it as a template for a blog post by leaving out the salutation.


Pronoun badges

To help other people remember which pronouns you want to be called by, you can wear a badge, jewelry, accessory, or piece of clothing with your pronouns written on it. You can use craft materials to create your own badge, or you can buy one from craft workers. Some examples of these makers, and the different kinds of pronoun badges that they make:

  • Rosemary Rain Studios hand-makes banner-shaped pins with custom pronouns on them.
  • Non-Newtonian Gender Fluid makes adhesive labels and pin-back badges that look like common "Hello My Name Is" stickers, but below your name, you have your pronouns. This can suit you if you want to remind people of your new name as well as your new pronouns. If you use a wet erase pen on the pin-back badges, you can change your name and pronouns as often as you need.
  • Spacerobot Studio makes necklaces that have charms that you can flip over to show your current pronoun. This can suit you if you change your pronouns very often, because of being genderfluid, or just experimenting with what pronouns you like best.
  • Synsyne makes pin-back badges that say "Today my pronouns are..." with a blank space to write on with a wet erase marker. This is also suitable for folks who often change their pronouns.
  • The Paper Poppy Store makes metal pendants and keychains hand-stamped with your pronouns. These can suit you if you also wear dog tags or want a rugged look.
  • Patches N Cream and emBOIdery hand-embroider pronoun patches of the kind that you can put on a punk jacket.
  • Hat's More Like It, CoziesByElliot, and CometBirthmark make hand-knit hats with big pronouns on them.

The above list gives only a few examples of those who sell pronouns you can wear. If you search for "pronouns" on Etsy.com or Storenvy.com, you will likely find your pronouns on things by many more makers. You can find many who make printed pin-back badges, as well as punk-style hand-embroidered patches. Take some time to browse and find a badge that really says you. For an easy comparison, see a collection of many sellers that make pronoun accessories and clothing on the Wear Your Pronouns pinboard. To keep it short and not overwhelming, the pinboard shows only one or two pictures for each seller.


Virtual badges

You can also wear a virtual badge by writing your pronouns in your profiles on the Internet. Although this may have started with nonbinary folks, it is becoming common practice for transgender and cisgender people alike to put their pronouns in their Internet profiles. Here is a made-up example of a Twitter profile that gives pronouns:


Mx Morgan Doe
Liberal Arts major, author. 23. Nonbinary. Pronouns: they, them, their, theirs, themself.


You can use the above example as a template for writing your own. If space is too limited to list all the forms of your pronoun, you can instead write only the nominative form of your pronoun ("Pronoun: they") or only the reflexive form ("Pronoun: themself"). The above example is also just right for the sidebar profile in sites such as Tumblr.com. On social networking web-sites that let you write longer profiles, you can tell more about your pronouns. For an example of how to write about them, use some traits from the template letter that is higher on this page. Limit your talk about your pronouns to a paragraph or two, at most.

In order to make it easier for people to put their pronouns in profiles with limited space, @morganastra and @thelseraphim created a web-site called Pronoun Island. Anyone can use it to create a link to a page that lists their pronouns and how to use them. For some pronouns that are built into the project, the web address is very short, so it's ideal for Twitter. People can also ask on Github for more pronouns to be added in the short form.

Pronoun etiquette

Many binary and nonbinary transgender folk experience gender dysphoria when people refer to them using the wrong pronouns. For those who don't pass as well as they'd like, being called by the wrong gender (misgendered) with the wrong pronouns is a common problem with a lot of work involved. An individual, upon being misgendered, is forced to either do the coming out spiel or grin and bear it, making the coming out later more awkward. If someone corrects you on their pronouns, the best way you can help is to start using their preferred pronouns right away without argument.

If your pronouns are unusual, or aren't what people think of as matching your gender expression, you may have to get used to reminding people to use them, and explaining them to people a lot. Learn people's common questions and objections to your pronouns, and rehearse your responses to them, so that you can keep your composure.

A person can have more than one set of pronouns that they want people to use for them. For example, suppose that your favorite set of pronouns might be "ze, hir." However, you don't want these to make an accessibility problem for people who have trouble with English, or maybe there are some situations where you don't feel safe using them, or don't feel up to the challenge of getting people to use them. In that case, you have decided to let people also call you by a second set of pronouns (auxiliary pronouns) that you like almost but not quite as much: "she, her." For another example, some genderfluid people feel comfortable or uncomfortable with certain pronouns depending on their current feelings about their gender identity. As a result, they feel the need to alternate pronouns, and ask to be called by different pronouns at different times.

Unusual pronouns can make trouble for people who speak English as a second language, or who have disabilities that make it harder for them to speak and understand English. Unusual pronouns are difficult to understand for people who lipread.[103] If you and another person have difficulty using unusual pronouns for people for these reasons, then it is acceptable and appropriate to ask a person if they have another set of pronouns that you can use in that case.[104]


See also


External Links

References

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