EN: pronoun for a baby - it or he/she

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by le Fnake, Jun 13, 2007.

  1. le Fnake

    le Fnake Senior Member

    St-Etienne, France
    France, French
    Hi there,

    yesterday evening, watching Grey's Anatomy, i heard that the newborn was called "she", although i remember in my youth that i was told that a baby should be called "it" during 6 months or something like that ? Am I wrong, or is this rules just applied in UK but not in USA ?

    Thanks for your answers :)

    Moderator note: multiple threads merged to create this one
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 7, 2011
  2. gws75 Senior Member

    American English
    He, she, and it can all be used when talking about a baby. People who have a personal connection to the baby would be more inclined to use he or she. I am not aware of a 6-month rule.
  3. LARSAY Senior Member

    Hanoi, Vietnam
    "It" is for animals and things, so, unless one considers that a baby, who was born with a gender, is not a human, "it" is incorrect. Well, that's what a French would say anyway.
  4. RuK Senior Member

    Outside Paris
    English/lives France
    I agree - "it" is almost offensive.
  5. le Fnake

    le Fnake Senior Member

    St-Etienne, France
    France, French
    ok, well, when my teacher told me that, i find it weird too, and that's why i still remember it today :) I think he said that a baby was considered genderless or something like that.

    BTW, what differentiates a (clothed) female baby from a male baby except the fact that the girl wears pink clothes and the boy blue ones ? A baby might become a little girl or boy when he/she starts to walk, i.e. when he/she's not 100% dependent from his/her parents anymore.

    But if you say that using "it" may be incorrect, i won't use it (if i'll be able to use it in the future, which is not sure :))

    thanks all of u anyway !
  6. wildan1

    wildan1 Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)

    if you don't know the baby's gender, it is often used, as in

    Lucy had her baby yesterday!
    What is it--a boy or a girl?

    Once you know the answer, however, you use he/she even if it is one day old!
  7. Laurie.Cocoon Senior Member

    J'avais le même problème en parlant de bébé en général, car en français le masculin l'emporte.

    Exemple, si je dis "Si votre bébé se met à pleurer, donnez-lui sa tétine" -> on parle d'une fille ou d'un garçon !

    En anglais, on dit quoi ?

    Edit : Si on dit 'give him his dummy' ou 'give her her dummy', on implique le sexe.

    Serait-ce 'if baby cries, give them their dummy', même si l'on parle d'un seul bébé ?
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 27, 2011
  8. besoul

    besoul Senior Member

    France - PARIS
    French - France
    Effectivement, c'est une bonne question qui est soulevée là.

    Je pense en revanche que "if baby cries, give them their dummy" est incorrect. A mon sens, on utilise him/her pour les individus ou les choses personnifiées, et it pour tout ce qui est matériel, sans identité propre.

    Je dirais par conséquent "if baby cries, give him his dummy", privilégiant donc le masculin. Mais alors là sans conviction... Je serais intéressé d'avoir l'avis d'un véritable Anglais.
  9. hakdz Senior Member

    A British-Indian friend of mine told me that "it" is an appropriate pronoun for a baby in American English, but not in British English.
    Is it true? And what about the other versions of English?
    But maybe we should start a new thread about this.
  10. Enquiring Mind

    Enquiring Mind Senior Member

    UK/Česká republika
    English - the Queen's
    If you know whether the baby is a boy or a girl, use "he" or "she".

    If it's hypothetical and you don't know the sex of the baby, you can also say "it". There's nothing wrong with calling a baby, a dog, a cat, a child "it".

    "If your baby is crying, maybe its nappy is wet, maybe it needs a feed, maybe it just needs a hug."
    Here, you can't use "they/their" (not in BE anyway). But to get back to the original question, you wouldn't use "it" for a person, you'd use "they/their/them" as previous posters have said.

    - "Mum, there's someone at the front door."
    - "Ask them what they want."
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2011
  11. The Prof

    The Prof Senior Member

    This is always a difficult one! Here is my British English take on it, for what it is worth:

    When talking about an as-yet unborn child whose sex is still unknown, 'it' is perfectly ok.

    Things can become more problematic once the child is born. For instance, if the person next to me is carrying a young baby, I might start by saying "Oh, what a cute baby". But the next natural question is "how old is ...", and that is the point where I start frantically looking for visual clues, such as pink flowery clothing, that will make it possible to complete the sentence with 'he' or 'she'. In the absence of such clues, I usually make a wild guess and wait to be corrected, or, sometimes, ask the parent directly: "(I'm sorry,) is it a girl or a boy?" (although asking that question requires an 'it').

    On the other hand, away from the parents I would use 'it' quite freely:
    "There was a woman with a baby sat next to me on the plane, and it screamed non-stop for the whole flight!"

    And Enquiring Mind's example: "If your baby is crying, maybe its nappy is wet ... " sounds perfectly acceptable to me. :)

Share This Page