Getting he/she intuitively right if native language has only gender-neutral pronouns


At times I can speak English fluently enough. The biggest issue bothering me is that when not carefully speaking, I mix 'he' and 'she' pronouns randomly. Example: "Jane's not here today. He's on a holiday."

When writing, I don't have this problem. The reason for this issue is that my native language has only gender-neutral pronouns so my brain is not wired for this kind of thing.

The question is: How to teach myself to use 'he' and 'she' automatically correctly when speaking?


Posted 2016-06-15T18:12:36.330

Reputation: 153

4Short of something like shock therapy, I'm not sure there's any magic "trick" that will make you automatically remember the correct pronoun. This is like asking, "How can I automatically put my fingers on the right frets while playing guitar?" or, "How can I automatically hit the right letters on my computer keyboard?" Some things are only learned through practice. – J.R. – 2016-06-15T19:30:47.380

1I'm not really looking for a magic trick. I've been using English in my workplace for 6 years or so, and despite speaking English almost daily, this particular issue doesn't seem to get any easier. – Regel – 2016-06-15T19:35:06.703

I don't think there is any way except "practice a lot". English is really pretty simple this way: men and boys are "he", women and girls are "she". Animals, maybe you call "he" or "she" if they're kind of "personal" or it actually makes a difference to the sentence. If you feel like English is tough, be glad you're not learning German or Spanish, in which every single object has a gender, or Japanese, where you have to learn how to pluralize just about every single thing differently...

– stangdon – 2016-06-15T21:17:24.713

My suggestion to you, Regel, would be to start from something you're comfortable with. English has something called the Singular They which you can use as a stop-gap while you start familiarizing yourself with the proper gender-specific pronouns. When you're not sure, fall back on the Singular They, and when you are sure, use the appropriate gender-specific pronoun. That way, you can ease yourself into it with practice.

– Omnidisciplinarianist – 2016-06-15T23:31:56.853

1@stangdon, English is plenty hard enough. Talk about pluralization: do we just add an -s (tree => trees)? Or perhaps we need -es (box => boxes)? Then again, might we need to add -en (ox => oxen)? Or are we talking about an irregular noun (nucelus => nuclei; goose => geese)? What about the irregular nouns that need an additional suffix (leaf => leaves)? Or those nouns that just ignore all of that and use the same form and no suffixes regardless of count (1 deer => 27 deer; 1 sheep => 4028 sheep)? – Omnidisciplinarianist – 2016-06-15T23:53:21.710

3@Sina - That suggestion should really be an answer. It's quite good. Instead of trying to get it right in day-to-day conversation, pick a time where you just practice gender pronouns. – J.R. – 2016-06-16T10:06:45.933

@Sina - I'd rather upvote your answer than your comment. – J.R. – 2016-06-16T21:38:45.783



Women have curves. So does the letter S.

Problem solved.

Similar to the method suggested by Sina, you can get a photo or two of your favorite women and write She on them. If you need to, you can get a couple of photos of your favorite men and write He on them. Study the photos each day. You can do this with your photos of friends and family.

For added practice, sit on the bus or whatever and connect each person with she or he.

Alan Carmack

Posted 2016-06-15T18:12:36.330

Reputation: 11 630


Train your mind. Once one of my Profs, Dr. Ahmad Jamali, adviced us to go stand on a crowded street and start practcing he, she pronounes. He said just look at the people walking by and say he if you see a male and she if you see a female. I never had this problem so never tried it. But you can give it a try if you like.


Posted 2016-06-15T18:12:36.330