Let's talk about pronouns
18 October is International Pronouns Day. We're sharing 10 facts you might not know about pronouns and how we use them.
Pronouns are words that we use every day. Instead of always using a person’s name, we’ll use pronouns like ‘I’ or ‘we’ to talk about ourselves, or ‘he’, ‘she’ or ‘they’ to refer to other people.
Using pronouns in the English language often relies on knowing the gender of the person we’re speaking about. And because gender identity is a complex and personal thing, you cannot always know someone’s gender - or the correct pronouns - just from looking at them.
Because pronouns are so linked to gender identity, some people choose to use different pronouns that line up better with how they experience their gender.
Sharing your own pronouns, asking people about theirs, and not assuming anything is a way of showing support and allyship for trans and gender-diverse people.
Gendered pronouns are the most familiar for most people. This includes words like ‘he’ ‘his’ and ‘him’, ‘she’ ‘hers’ and ‘her’.
The most common gender-neutral pronoun in English is ‘they’ and ‘them’. Using ‘they’ in this way has been part of our language since 1375!
Sometimes people prefer mixed pronouns, like she/they or they/he. This means different things to different people. It could be that they just do not mind which set you use. Or it could be that they feel that just one type of pronoun doesn’t tell their whole story.
You might hear people say that it’s wrong to use gender-neutral pronouns, or that they’re awkward to say. But think about the sentence ‘They’ve left their coat here, can you tell them?’ It’s something we do naturally when we want to refer to someone without mentioning their gender.
As our understanding of gender diversity has changed and expanded, so have the pronouns available. Many people choose what are called neo-pronouns, like ‘xe/xir’ and ‘ze/zir’.
Although it might feel like these are all new ideas, actually our language is always changing. In the past, people have used ‘a’, ‘heo’, ‘ou’ and ‘thon’ as pronouns.
Did you know?
Many people in the public eye use gender-neutral or mixed pronouns. This includes actors Bella Ramsey from The Last of Us and Emma Corrin from The Crown, singer Sam Smith and comedian Mae Martin.