The world has made small but big strides towards inclusivity and language plays a big part in this.
We have become acutely aware of the importance of not labeling people, as everyone has the right to identify themselves as they wish and to use valid pronouns.
Whether you’re looking to expand your knowledge or are new to adopting them, this excerpt is your guide to gender-neutral pronouns and how to use them.
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gender neutral pronoun list
The above list are common gender-neutral pronouns.
While he and she are considered gender-based, some non-binary people use them because they do not feel connected to the gender typically associated with them.
Usually someone will share their own pronouns, but when in doubt, you can refer to someone by their name.
gender neutral pronouns
Gender-neutral pronouns do not specify the gender of the subject of the sentence. For example, ‘they’ is a third-person pronoun that is gender neutral. Other gender-neutral pronouns include ‘them’, ‘this person’, ‘everybody’, ‘zee’, or ‘her’. If you’re not sure which pronoun to use, you can also use the person’s name.
How to use gender neutral pronouns
In English, “He” is often used as an automatic replacement for ordinary people.
“He” and “she” are also two extreme binaries that leave no room for other gender identities, which can be harmful to transgender, non-binary, and gay gender communities.
Ultimately, you probably don’t want to make inaccurate or harmful assumptions about someone’s gender — they may be gender non-binary, or uncomfortable identifying with “he” or “she.”
Gender-neutral language ensures everyone is included in your sentences. But, when in doubt, refer to someone by their name rather than “him” or “her.”
,They” is one of the more common gender-neutral pronouns, and it’s easy to incorporate into your everyday conversation. Here are some examples of how to use it:
- “I spoke to the marketing director and he said he would get in touch with me.”
- “I think someone left their laptop behind.”
- “Who’s in charge of that campaign? I’ll email them.”
Let’s look at some examples of how you would use other pronouns in conversation.
- “Where did Zee go?”
- “This pencil belongs to her.”
- “Zay would like to do it himself.”
- “I think X is cool.”
- “Tell me I say hello.”
- “That sandwich is xirs.”
- “I think ver is good.”
- “I borrowed the Vis pencil.”
- “I went to the shop with Veer.”
- “I went to the store.”
- “I borrowed it from the temple.”
- “He’s a dog.”
- “I wrote me a note.”
- “That’s his.”
- “I asked to borrow the air pencil.”
gender neutral pronoun ideas
1. How to learn someone’s pronouns
When meeting someone for the first time, most people agree that it’s best not to directly ask for pronouns because someone may feel like you’re assuming their gender identity. In some cases, this can put someone in a position where they have to put themselves out there but they don’t want to or are not ready to do so.
Instead, introduce yourself Yours Pronouns: “Hi, I’m Caroline, and my pronouns are she.” With this, you are giving the other person permission to share, but not forcing them to.
If you ask, there are many ways to do so respectfully. For example, in a work meeting, you might say, “Before we begin, I’d like to go around and share our names and pronouns if you’re comfortable sharing.” Then, people have the option of sharing or not sharing.
During a face-to-face conversation, you can first introduce yourself and share your pronouns or say, “What are your pronouns?” or “Can you remind me of your pronouns?”
You can also incorporate pronouns into your email signature, social media profiles or professional pages.
If you don’t ask for pronouns, it’s best to default to addressing someone by name. While many consider them to be a gender-neutral option, some may feel it is the wrong gender.
Featured Read: Why do we ask each other our pronouns?
2. Aim to avoid saying “preferred pronouns”.
Despite the popularity of the term “preferred pronoun”, it can be alienating because it can imply that one’s gender is his or her preference.
As mentioned, you don’t always want to ask someone about their pronouns and instead share your pronouns first. But, if you’re asking, you can say any of the following instead of “preferred pronoun”:
- “What are your pronouns?”
- What would you like me to refer you to?
- How would you like to be addressed?
Featured Read: Gender Census 2023 Worldwide Report
3. What if someone uses multiple pronouns?
People can use multiple pronouns, such as he/they or they/her. If someone shares this with you, they may also say that they are more comfortable with each other, or that they would like you to vary the pronouns you use in conversation.
It may sound daunting, but you’ve probably done it before. For example, “He was late for work yesterday, so he had to head to the meeting.”
An example of how this would look in a conversation with someone using multiple pronouns is, “She went to the doctor because her cough didn’t go away for a few days.”
4. How do you use gender-neutral pronouns with titles and honorifics?
An honorific or title describing someone’s position in life or a professional setting. Mrs., Mr., and Sir are examples of common honorifics, and there are gender neutral variations that one can use:
- MX. (most common gender neutral honorific)
- PR. (derived from person)
- mrs (mixture of miss and sir)
- various. (miscellaneous)
Not everyone chooses a gender neutral honor, so it’s best to follow their lead. If they share one, use it; If they don’t, you might want to avoid using it altogether.
Featured Read: Gender neutral titles and why they matter
5. Should I correct other people who make mistakes?
Some people won’t want to call attention to someone’s mistake, but others will appreciate you correcting them. If you’re more concerned with the person who is of the wrong gender, you can ask them directly what they want you to do, or you can say something like: “[Persons name] Use [pronoun],” and then continue the conversation.
If you don’t know someone’s choice and still want to support them, you can make sure you use the correct pronouns when talking about them. For example, if someone says, “She made a very good point,” you could say, “I agree that she made a very good point.”
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6. You don’t need to ask everyone their pronouns.
There are some cases where there is no need to ask for a pronoun at all. For example, a brief encounter with a server at a restaurant does not require knowing their pronouns, which is why it is considered best practice to omit calling someone by their name.
7. Be open to continuous learning.
Everyone makes mistakes, and the same applies to pronouns. If you miss, the best thing to do is admit it right away, say, “Sorry, that’s what I meant to say. [pronoun],” and move on. If you realize after the fact, you can do the same thing but still keep it brief and move on.
On the other hand, making a mistake and then constantly bringing it up or saying it’s hard to remember can make someone feel awkward and feel like they’re a burden for pronouns you’re not familiar with.
Be committed to making mistakes and learning from them.
Special Resources: practice with pronouns