Gender (references to males and females)

English does not have many problems of grammatical gender. Commonly, people are 'he or she' and things are 'it'. The following points are to be remembered.

1. animals, cars, ships and countries

1.1 In English we usually use it to refer to animals and things. However, sometimes we call animals he or she. This practice is common when animals are thought of as having personality, intelligence or feelings. This is common with pets and domestic animals like cats, dogs and horses.
My grandfather had a dog called Tom. 'He' was very … (More natural than ‘It was very …)

He is sometimes used in cases where the sex of the animal is not known.

Look at the little monkey. Isn’t 'he' cute?

1.2 Some people use 'she' for cars, motorbikes, ships, boats etc. (but most people use 'it').
The ship has struck an iceberg. 'She' is sinking. OR It is sinking. (NOT He is sinking.)

1.3 In modern English, we usually use it for countries. She is also sometimes used.
India is keen on improving its relations with China. OR India is keen on improving her relations with China.

2. he or she?

English has traditionally used he in cases where the sex of a person is not known. He is also used in references that can apply to either men or women.
If I ever find the person who did this, I will kill 'him'. (NOT …I will kill her.)

This usage is now regarded as sexist and many people try to avoid it. Instead, they use the expression ‘he or she’.

If a student is ill 'he or she' is required to submit a medical certificate.OR If a student is ill he is required to submit a medical certificate.

3. they instead of he or she

In an informal style, we often use they instead of ‘he or she’. They is commonly used to refer back to indefinite words like somebody, anybody, nobody, person etc.
‘There is somebody at the door.’ ‘Tell them I am out.’
If anybody comes ask them to wait.
God send everyone their heart’s desire. (Shakespeare)

4. actor and actress etc.

A few jobs and positions have different words for men and women.

Man Woman Man Woman
actor actress monk nun
groom bride policeman policewoman
duke duchess prince princess
hero heroine steward stewardess
host hostess waiter waitress
manager manageress widower widow

A 'mayor' can be a man or a woman; in Britain a 'mayoress' is the wife of male mayor.
Some words ending in -ess (e.g. authoress, poetess) have gone out of use (author and poet are now used for both men and women. Also to 'actress' and 'manageress'. 'Steward and stewardess are being replaced by other terms such as 'flight attendant', and 'police officer' is often used instead of 'policewoman/woman'.

5. words ending in -man

Some words ending in -man do not have common feminine equivalent (e.g. chairman, fireman etc.). As many women dislike being called, for instance, 'chairman' or 'spokesman', are now avoided in references to women or in general references to people of either sex. In many cases, '-person' is now used instead of '-man'.
Alice has just been elected 'chairperson' (or chair) of our committee.

In some cases, new words ending in '-woman' (e.g. spokeswoman) are coming into use. But in some cases we need to choose words, even for men, which are not gender-marked (e.g. supervisor instead of foremen, ambulance staff instead of ambulance men, firefighter instead of fireman).

6. man

Man and mankind have traditionally been used for the human race.
Why does man have more diseases than animals?
That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.

7. titles

Ms (pronounced /mɨz/, /məz/ is often used instead of Mrs or Miss. So with Mr. it does not show whether the person referred to is married or not.
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