submarine: it or her?

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Zsuzsu

Senior Member
Hungarian
Hi there,

Should I refer to a submarine as "it" or "her"? "Her" sounds a bit wierd to me, but it might not to a native's ear. I'm not sure...

A Polish submarine, Orzel, fled to Tallin, Estonia. The Estonians should have disarmed it/her in accordance with the international war law, but instead, they let the Polish move on to London.

Thanks a lot!
 
  • Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    A submarine is a ship, so we will often use her, but it does sound a little odd here, doesn't it? Perhaps it's the formidable challenge of disarming a her. :) We like to think positively about our womenfolk and their namesakes, e.g. She could circumnavigate the world without surfacing. When she was built, her keel set a new record and her beam was pretty impressive too.

    I think you can use whichever you're most comfortable with. Perhaps the Poles don't use her to refer to their ships (just a thought and a possible defense for using it).

    Or you can reword to eliminate the problem (not a perfect solution by any means):
    A Polish submarine fled to Tallin, Estonia. The Estonians should have disarmed the Orzel in accordance with international law, but instead they let the Poles continue on to London.

    Note Poles rather than Polish and other small changes in the sentence. Instead of Poles you can use vessel -- it's slightly confusing for the reader to read about the submarine and then find a reference to the crew.
     

    NRCP

    Member
    Brazil-Portuguese
    Hi, Zsuzsu.

    I have checked your doubt and noticed that submarine can be changed for pronoun her in the sentences, because a few times this pronoun is used to refer to cars, vessels and countries as well. However, the use of the pronoun it also is correct.

    It was researching in longman school dictionary
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    I object to describing anything as she or her unless it actually has female sex organs ( or has asked to be called 'she') so Copyright's 'we' does not include me. (Who are these 'we' people who discuss submarines so often?) To think about it in less elegant and less amusing terms than Copyright's, all these men are stuck for months on end inside a heavily armed metal tube shape, ( I resisted the temptation and used 'tube'), ploughing through the ocean depths. "Odd" is an understatement. Maybe my mind is both too literal and overimaginative.

    I do agree about avoiding it -avoidance often solves grammar problems and Copyright's suggestions are admirable.
    My contribution is to suggest putting the ship's name at the start:

    A Polish submarine, the Orzel, fled to Tallin, Estonia. The Estonians should have disarmed ?the Orzel? or it in accordance with international law, but instead they let xthe Polesx the vessel continue on to London.

    I would want to check that 'vessel' is the correct generic term for a submarine. Since the sub was called Orzel and not The Orzel, I am pretty sure that the punctuation is fine for 'the Orzel'.


    Cheers

    Hermione
     

    Zsuzsu

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Hi Hermione,

    It seems that I had the same ideas as you. Before reading your post, I had already altered my sentence:

    A Polish submarine, the Orzel, fled to Tallin, Estonia. The Estonians should have disarmed the vessel in accordance with international law, but instead they let it continue on to London.

    :)
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The Royal Navy refers to submarines as "she". Here is one of many possible examples.
    HMS Turbulent is the second of the Trafalgar Class submarines and was launched in 1982. As a nuclear powered attack submarine she is capable of taking on a wide range of roles in support of current and future operations. She is versatile, well equipped and has an exceptional crew that take on any task with pride and determination.
    Source
     

    NRCP

    Member
    Brazil-Portuguese
    Panjandrum,

    I also checked this possibility to use the pronoun she and you are correct.It can be using to change the submarine in the sentence .But this pronoun only can change the words vessel or car.

    Thank you for your information
     

    word_up

    Senior Member
    Being a Pole, I find it really strange and awkward to read "the Orzel". I myself would stick with "Orzel" (or Orzeł - which means Eagle).
    Don't know how idiomatic it would be, though. After all, there is the Titanic, but HMS Turbulent in Panjandrum's example.

    A side note to Copyright: We (Poles) refer to submarine using both male and female pronouns, depending on the common name used for it earlier in text (we have at least 2), but generally a ship is he (never it). Similarly, a car is he too. This is not a sign of affection, however, it's just the only proper form.
     

    word_up

    Senior Member
    By the way, maybe this will come in handy:
    as in UK they use HMS prefix for ship names, similarly USS in US,
    in Polish naval forces it is ORP (e.g. ORP Orzeł)
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Being a Pole, I find it really strange and awkward to read "the Orzel". I myself would stick with "Orzel" (or Orzeł - which means Eagle).
    Don't know how idiomatic it would be, though. After all, there is the Titanic, but HMS Turbulent in Panjandrum's example.
    In my experience, we always use the article for ship names: He sailed to Vietnam on the USS Gordon, while his buddies sipped cocktails on airplanes.

    A side note to Copyright: We (Poles) refer to submarine using both male and female pronouns, depending on the common name used for it earlier in text (we have at least 2), but generally a ship is he (never it). Similarly, a car is he too. This is not a sign of affection, however, it's just the only proper form.
    Thanks very much for the information; that's very interesting. I think the best a writer can do is to decide based on readership. That's also the reason I suggested "the Orzel" -- in English it would be more familiar.

    You can get away without the "the"in panj's example because the ship name comes at the beginning of the sentence. I would normally expect "the HMS Turbulent" if it were inside a sentence.
     

    word_up

    Senior Member
    In my experience, we always use the article for ship names: He sailed to Vietnam on the USS Gordon, while his buddies sipped cocktails on airplanes.

    Thanks, then I will pay attention to add it (please note it, ZsuZsu ;) ). Usage of "the" is one of the most complex issues in English grammar as far as I am concerned. I learned a general rule, that proper names sometimes do and sometimes do not have the in front of them, and if they don't, you don't add it. But it's too general, probably way too general.
     
    Nouns in these situations--one object-- do usually require some kind of noun marker in English to focus our attention precisely on a particular object out of the general category which is expressed in the plural:

    Speaking of the actual bird:
    "Eagles landed on my roof last night" is possible, not likely,but possible, but in the singular, it can't be "Eagle landed on my roof", we have to get precise with a single object and start marking it in some way.

    "An (one) eagle landed on my roof." (Singled out of all the eagles in the word, but we don't know the eagle and don't care)

    "The eagle (one) landed on my roof." (Singled out as one eagle that we know in some way from prior conversation from all the eagles in the world but we're indifferent about its direction from us.)

    "This eagle, that eagle.." (marking closing to us, marking distant from us, getting more precise)

    "Sally's eagle, Johnny's eagle, her Majesty's eagle, his Majesty's eagle"(marking that someone owns this eagle and we know that) landed on my roof." and then substituting pronouns, "Her eagle, his eagle, HMS (abbeviation for Her Majesty's/His Majesty's) landed on my roof."

    Theoretically, we could tame and name a living creature and make a pet out of it, and call our eagle Sam or Titantic, and then say, like it's a person, "Sam landed on my roof last night, Titantic landed on my roof last night" but we are completely fantasizing it as a human being when we do that, and one that is part of our family.

    But we won't usually do that in English with a non living inanimate object, even if traditionally we've assigned a gender to it.

    **************
    Names of ships and planes and boats and space capsules will also always have "the......." as the actual name itself. "The Eagle has landed (on Mars, on the moon)" to denote it as something important and famous. From there we get "The Hubble Space Telescope."

    Even if you tell me you've named your little rowboat "Mary" I expect to see "The Mary" painted along its side because it's important and famous to you.
     
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