EN: the individual - she / he

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by camstmac, Sep 6, 2010.

  1. camstmac New Member

    Dear forum members,

    I would like to know if nouns in english have a gender. I have heard different answer to this question, and am still a little confused.
    I am writting an article in which it is a lot about "households" and "individuals".

    I have seen a lot of articles that treat individual as a feminine noun, as in the sentence below:
    "The individual decides what she believes is best"
    I would be tempted to say he here, or maybe it; but she does always sounds strange, is it right?

    The same for household, I have read a couple of articles using the neutral to define it:
    "The question whether a household invest in its social network is..."
    I would be tempted to write 'his' instead if its, but I suppose that it is a french bias.
    Where can I find information on the gender of nouns (wordreference and my dictionary do not have)? Or can some one help me with these two particular cases?

    Thanks a lot !
  2. SwissPete

    SwissPete Senior Member

    94044 USA
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    Nouns in English do not have gender.

    When you read "The individual decides what she believes is best", that's because the author is trying to be politically correct. It's OK, but so would he. It would not be OK.

    For household, however, I feel that its is OK, since it does not refer to a person.

    I have no doubt that there will be many other comments... :)
  3. sojourner84

    sojourner84 Senior Member

    United States
    American English
    I'm confirming SwissPete's statement. English nouns do not have a gender. Even though other Germanic languages such as Dutch and German have noun gender, English does not.
  4. Rami_111 Member

    "The individual" is given a gendered pronoun because it refers to a person.

    The rule used to be that you use masculine pronouns to refer to a person of unspecified gender, unless there is reason to assume that person is female. As SwissPete noted, that is changing a bit due to the politics of language. These days you sometimes see "she" used to refer to a person of either gender. You'll also see "he or she," or even "they" used to refer to a single person (as ungrammatical as that seems). For examples:

    "The individual will decide what her or she believes is best"
    "The individual will decide what they believe is best."

    It's ugly, I know!

    Common nouns are ungendered. There are a few exceptions. A ship, for example, is "she."
  5. sojourner84

    sojourner84 Senior Member

    United States
    American English
    Even though this colloquial expression is accepted, I think it would be more grammatically correct to refer to inanimate objects as "it".

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