Third-person pronouns

English pronouns are only gender-specific in the third person singular. When a person's gender is binary, use she, her and her(s) for female gender and he, him and his for male gender.
When someone’s gender is non-binary, use that person’s self-identified pronouns, meaning the pronouns with which the person wants to be referred. In English, some people self-identify with the pronouns they, them and their(s), while others use sets of pronouns that have been introduced into the language to make it more gender-inclusive, like ze, hir and hir(s), or like hen, henom and hen(s). In the example below, the writer respects two people’s use of self-identified pronouns.

Exemple adequatMy colleague James Rollins will be waiting for you in the main terminal when you clear customs; James is tall with a beard and they will be carrying a sign with your name on it, so it should be easy to recognize them.

Exemple adequatDr Sara Shields explains why ze believes hir formula would help hir and other scientists to simplify the procedure in an article published last week in a leading journal.

When the person’s gender is not known or not relevant, as is usually the case for institutional texts at the UB, use they, them and their(s).

Exemple adequatOnly one student submitted their assignment on time.

Exemple adequatBefore 15 October, each tutor must speak to the students that they have been assigned.

Alternatively, rephrase the sentence so that the pronoun is unnecessary or pluralize the subject.

Exemple adequatOnly one student submitted the assignment on time.

Exemple adequatBefore 15 October, all tutors must speak to the students that they have been assigned.

Finally, when there is no way of knowing the person’s gender, also use they, them and their(s). This may happen when you only know the person’s name and that name is a shortened form (Alex for Alexandra or Alexander, or Pat for Patricia or Patrick), a gender-neutral name (Amal, Cameron, Kazumi, Sasha) or a name with different gender associations in different countries (Andrea, Jean, Joan).

Exemple adequatDr Pat Sculley explained their personal opinion on the matter.

Exemple adequatJean Stuyvesant said they were pleased with their first art installation in the city of Genoa.
Darrera actualització: 31-10-2023
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Recommended citation:
«Third-person pronouns» [en línia]. A: Llibre d’estil de la Universitat de Barcelona. Barcelona: Universitat de Barcelona. Serveis Lingüístics. <> [consulta: 4 desembre 2023].
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