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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > it he or she?    

it he or she?



mistick
France

it he or she?
 
Hi everybody!!
 
There is a question my colleagues and I have been recently discussing without finding the answer.
In our textbooks we always teach Whos the boy? this Girl?  - ITs Brad / Jade. One of my colleagues says its possible to answer Hes Brad / Shes Jade. but it sounds strange to me and I consider it as being wrong but now ...........; Im not sure anymore so what do you think? teach?
Thank you for answering because Im a bit mixed up now.  Ermm
 
 

17 Dec 2008      



Logos
Malaysia

Using it to describe a person is perfectly acceptable in English in the context where you are not sure if the gender of the person you are referring to is male or female.  It avoids an awkward response of He or She is...
 
In this context Brad is known to both speakers and if you were to reply Hes Brad, then this would be if the person asking did not know Brad, and both of them could see him.  I think the it is referring more to the situation, the fact of Brad being at the door, rather than question of identity.
 
I may be wrong with this and am quite open to anyone giving a much more learned and academic opinion.
 
Another conundrum that sometimes comes up in this context is as follows.  Is there anything wrong with this sentence:  "I will give the prize to ONE student in the class.  They will receive it tomorrow."
 
How can we use they when only ONE student is mentioned.  Simply because you do not know if the student is male or female (this is in a mixed class of course!!)
 
 

17 Dec 2008     



Zora
Canada

No, you are quite right Logos. Smile
 
And to mix the pot a bit more: we can also use "he or she" with animals when we know if its a female or a male.
 
Example:
 
My cat Penny, shes a great mouser...
 
The bull is in a frenzy. Hes going to hurt somebody.
 
 

17 Dec 2008     



atsitab
Portugal

I knew that we could use "he" or "she" with animals, but I thought it was only for pets, because we give them a name and treat them as persons (thats what Ive learnt), but I might be wrong.

17 Dec 2008     



Zora
Canada

Well, Id say that any animal that has a "gender" you can use it with.
 
Example:
 
The lioness is very protective of "her" cubs. "She" teaches them how to hunt.
 
The female elephant is not as heavy as the male. She is usually a lighter grey too.
 
Both are perfectly acceptable, the second one as you are stating its "gender" can later be continued on using he or she.
 
When we are first learning, its just easier to use the rule "it" - for animals, things and places.

17 Dec 2008     



Vickiii
New Zealand

I believe the use of it and they as described above has arisen as a response to the womens movement and political correctness. 

In a lot of English speaking countries it is no longer acceptable to call a mixed gender group he or men.  therefore it and they are more commonly used to ensure that no one takes offense. 

It is interesting teaching this point in a country where mixed groups are referred to as male in the native tongue, and the political correctness has not really become a popular concept - although women work in professional jobs and even run the country!

17 Dec 2008     



atsitab
Portugal

Thank you!  Its great to have so many people willing to help us when we have some doubts.  Thank you!
Merry Christmas!
Ana

17 Dec 2008     



Apryll12
Hungary

In my language (Hungarian) we dont even have sex distinction for the third person singular. We use the same pronoun for both sexes. When I teach he and she it is not too difficult though to make students understand the use of these pronouns. But when it comes to it referring to people... well its quite hard. My personal view on this is the same as logos, that it can be used when not the gender of the person is in focus, rather the situation. Let me give you another example: In telephone converstaions when you introduce yourself you say: Its John Brown. and not Im John Brown., which can seem quite impersonal. But in this situation it can be interpreted as It is John Brown who is calling. Just like in cleft-sentences. Dont you agree?

17 Dec 2008     



goodnesses
Algeria

Hi, all.

I think that the matter is much more simple.
When we use "he/she" followed by the verb to "be" we usually wait for a state of being and not really the identity.
-He/She is tall.
-He/She was a bright student.

Answering the question "Whos that/the boy/the woman...?" refers to the identity not to the state of being.

17 Dec 2008     



mistick
France

Thank you for your help but some of you didnt really the question, it has nothing to do with animals but just with how to answer the question : Whos this boy? this girl? Its ............... or Hes / shes according to the gender?
Thanks to Logos and goodnesses.Hug

18 Dec 2008     



Zora
Canada

Yes, it was answered AND agreed with. We were just pointing out another case and clarifying it for another person. Smile 

18 Dec 2008     

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