He, She, or They?

Published on 07 Dec, 2016

Generic Grammar

When you want to refer to both men and women in a statement or a sentence, using the correct pronoun can be a tricky issue. Writers and editors often come across such sentences; some resort to using he or she, others opt to rephrase the sentence altogether. However, the dilemma is that singular pronouns have restrictions – the gender is explicit. It is always about a “he”, “she”, “his” or “her”. Is there an alternative for this?

Let us take a look at this example:

  • Talk to your parent regularly, as -___ recovering.

What would you choose?

He is recovering?

She is recovering? 

What if you (the author) don’t know the gender of the parent of your reader? 

In situations like these, using a pronoun that is neutral in terms of gender is the best choice. You can substitute “his or her” and “he or she” with “their” and “they”, respectively. This helps you avoid repeating “he or she” and “his or her” throughout the article.

Here are a few more examples:

  • A user should be able to see all their emails within a minute.
  • Remind your doctor before they write the prescription.
  • If you see anyone near the house, tell them to be alert.

Although this solution is still not widely applied, it is increasingly gaining importance in the world of grammar.

What do you think?