Updated: Sep 16
What is a pronoun?
Pronouns are used as a substitution for one's name when referring to a person. Examples of pronouns include she, he, they, I, and we.
While there is no defined set of rules for pronouns, the pronouns we choose to use for ourselves often correlate to our gender identity and expression. This differs from your sex, which is a combination of biological attributes including genetic, physical, and hormonal characteristics.
What are some examples of pronouns?
People identify with various pronouns such as she/her, he/him, and they/them. They allow a conversation to flow and all parties to understand who someone is referring to without constantly repeating their name.
These pronouns are typically used by individuals who identify as female.
“She looks happy.”
“I love her style.”
“That shirt is hers.”
These pronouns are typically used by individuals who identify as male.
“He looks happy.”
“Give this to him.”
“I love his style.”
These pronouns are typically used by individuals who identify as nonbinary or don’t identify as male or female.
“They look happy.”
“I love their style.”
“That shirt is theirs.”
As you meet new people, you may find they use different pronouns than these or even a combination of them. For example, someone may use she/they pronouns or she/he/they. It is important to respect one's pronouns and use them correctly.
Don’t assume pronouns.
It is best to ask for someone’s pronouns while meeting them. Asking someone's pronouns right off the bat can help avoid misgendering and miscommunication. It may seem awkward at first, but here is a quick phrase you can use to respectfully and simply ask someone's pronouns when introducing yourself:
“Hi, my name is ____, and I use (he/him, she/her, they/them) pronouns.”
This simple gesture ensures everyone feels validated and comfortable.
Recognize all parts of someone’s pronouns.
If someone uses more than one pronoun such as she/they, try not to default to the “typical” pronoun “she” all the time, but rather use a variation of both throughout the conversation. By putting in the effort to use all pronouns rather than only the ones you may be used to, it shows that you respect and validate their identity.
Don’t be ashamed of making a mistake.
If you accidentally use the wrong pronouns, simply acknowledge it and continue. Transitioning to using someone's new pronouns can be strange and difficult to adapt to. Even someone who is using new pronouns may mess up every now and then. Don’t focus on the mistake. Instead, swiftly correct yourself and continue the conversation. As long as you put in the effort and actively correct your mistakes, you are doing a great job, and it will become second nature eventually.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (2021). Merriam-Webster.com. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary
Pronouns 101. (n.d.). https://assets2.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/HRC_ACAF_Pronouns_101_(1).pdf
Pronouns 101 | LGBT Resource Center. (2016). Uccs.edu. https://lgbtresourcecenter.uccs.edu/pronouns-101