Gender in Grammar

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What Is Gender in Grammar? (with Examples)

Gender is a category of noun. A noun's gender determines how it behaves with other words. For example: In English, nouns are categorized as masculine, feminine, or neuter depending on their meaning. Most nouns are neuter, unless they obviously refer to something male or female.

Only the third person pronouns (i.e., he, his, she, her, hers, it, and its) reflect gender.

Examples of Gender

Here are some examples of nouns and their genders:
NounGenderExample
CupNeuterWhere's my cup? I have lost it.
BoyMasculineHas that boy finished his chores?
PrincessFeminineThe princess has eaten hers.

Genders Can Change in English

In many languages (e.g., Russian, Serbo-Croat, and German), the spelling of a noun (as opposed to its meaning) often determines its gender.

For example, if a noun ends -a (in Russian or Serbo-Croat) or ends –heit (in German), then it will be feminine. This is not how it works in English, where gender is directly linked to whether something is male or female. In English, gender can even change. Look at these examples:
NounGenderExample
DogNeuterWhere's its bone?
DogMasculineWhere's his bone?
DogFeminineWhere's her bone?

Feminine Gender for Ships and Machines

Even though they are not literally female, ships and other machines are sometimes affectionately given a feminine gender.
NounGenderExample
boatNeuterI have worked on this boat all my life. It is a beauty.
boatFeminineI have worked on this boat all my life. She is a beauty.

Masculine Gender for Men and Women

It is a common practice to use a masculine gender in writing to represent both masculine and feminine. For example: The alternative is very unwieldy:

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See Also

What are nouns? What are pronouns? What are possessive adjectives? What are absolute possessive pronouns? What is masculine gender? What is feminine gender? What is neuter gender? What does third person mean? Glossary of grammatical terms