Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 19
  1. #1
    JarekSteliga is offline Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Interested in Language
      • Native Language:
      • Polish
      • Home Country:
      • Poland
      • Current Location:
      • Poland
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Posts
    409
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default gender of English nouns

    I have learnt that English nouns are basicly genderless. However I often encounter some objects reffered to as 'he' or 'she'. I could not find a list of objects commonly endowed with a gender. I know just a few items of any such list: the Moon (she), the Sun (she), a ship/boat (she). Would anyone care to draw up a list of inanimate nouns commonly referred to as 'he' or 'she'?
    The intriguing thing here is that two nouns out of the three I mentioned above have the opposite gender in my language (the Sun being referred to as 'it')

  2. #2
    emsr2d2's Avatar
    emsr2d2 is offline Moderator
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Posts
    23,415
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: gender of English nouns

    I believe that the moon is referred to as "she" because in so many religions there is a goddess (not a god) associated with the moon. I'm not so sure about the sun. I don't think I regularly hear the sun referred to as "she". If anything, if I had to associate one or the other, I would say there are more Sun gods than goddesses.

    I have no idea why people refer to boats and cars as "she" although with cars it's sometimes the case that men prefer their car to their wife!

  3. #3
    SoothingDave is offline VIP Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Interested in Language
      • Native Language:
      • American English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Posts
    9,799
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: gender of English nouns

    I wouldn't agree that the sun and moon are called "she" (outside of poetry, maybe).

    Cars, boats, etc. can be, but usually by those responsible for operating them.

  4. #4
    konungursvia's Avatar
    konungursvia is offline Key Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Academic
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Canada
      • Current Location:
      • Canada
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    4,804
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: gender of English nouns

    English nouns don't actually have gender. Gender as a grammatical feature is different to gender as an expression of biological sex, though their origins are intertwined.

    First, we have to distinguish between an object (say, a real bicycle) and the word used to denote it.

    In the cultures of the English-speaking peoples, there is a tradition to refer to some objects with personification, including gender, such as ships and some countries. The feminine pronoun is even used.

    But the words themselves (ship, country, Russia, Germany, etc.) don't have gender in English.

    A further counter-example: even in a gender-based language such as French, it is the words, not the actual objects, which have gender, a purely grammatical convention, e.g. bicycle: un vélocipède / un 'vélo' (m), une bicyclette (f).

    So we see that the same object can be referred to by words which themselves are masculine or feminine; in most cases, the object has none (the exception being people and animals).

  5. #5
    JarekSteliga is offline Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Interested in Language
      • Native Language:
      • Polish
      • Home Country:
      • Poland
      • Current Location:
      • Poland
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Posts
    409
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: gender of English nouns

    Come to think of it, I indeed must have heard the nouns referred to as male of female in poetry and interpolated this phenomenon into everyday use of the language. From the study of the above posts I realize that gender application to nouns is indeed marginal and mostly met with when a given object is dear to their owner's / operator's heart (in some extreme cases dearer than their own ...wife ).

    Konungursvia mentioned that some countries are personified as male/female. Can I ask which? I do not suppose Poland is among them ?

  6. #6
    konungursvia's Avatar
    konungursvia is offline Key Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Academic
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Canada
      • Current Location:
      • Canada
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    4,804
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: gender of English nouns

    Quote Originally Posted by JarekSteliga View Post
    Come to think of it, I indeed must have heard the nouns referred to as male of female in poetry and interpolated this phenomenon into everyday use of the language. From the study of the above posts I realize that gender application to nouns is indeed marginal and mostly met with when a given object is dear to their owner's / operator's heart (in some extreme cases dearer than their own ...wife ).

    Konungursvia mentioned that some countries are personified as male/female. Can I ask which? I do not suppose Poland is among them ?
    It's a she: The Montreal Gazette - Google News Archive Search

    Edit: I suppose most or even all countries are "she" in English when romantically personified, i.e. a motherland, a nation, a vehicle of sorts (a Leviathan). Even Der Vaterland.

  7. #7
    TheParser is offline VIP Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Other
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Posts
    5,035
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: gender of English nouns

    [QUOTE=JarekSteliga;841877]


    NOT A TEACHER


    Mr. Steliga,


    When you have time, you may wish to google: "She" is no longer a ship.

    In 2002, the Daily Telegraph of London had a most interesting article on this matter.

  8. #8
    JarekSteliga is offline Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Interested in Language
      • Native Language:
      • Polish
      • Home Country:
      • Poland
      • Current Location:
      • Poland
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Posts
    409
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: gender of English nouns

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    It's a she: The Montreal Gazette - Google News Archive Search

    Edit: I suppose most or even all countries are "she" in English when romantically personified, i.e. a motherland, a nation, a vehicle of sorts (a Leviathan). Even Der Vaterland.
    The article in The Montreal Gazette simply took my breath away (and for more reasons than are relevant to our current topic). I cannot thank you enough for bringing it up.

    May I now tentatively take my earlier observations a step further and assert that this personification of nouns realized through referring to them as "she" is a figure of speech of sorts or a peculiar term of endearment used to express tender feelings towards objects not just by their owners / operators but also in broader contexts.

    If this were the case, I suppose it would be in order for me to say for example: how can I thank this FORUM for HER existence?

  9. #9
    emsr2d2's Avatar
    emsr2d2 is offline Moderator
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Posts
    23,415
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: gender of English nouns

    Quote Originally Posted by JarekSteliga View Post
    The article in The Montreal Gazette simply took my breath away (and for more reasons than are relevant to our current topic). I cannot thank you enough for bringing it up.

    May I now tentatively take my earlier observations a step further and assert that this personification of nouns realized through referring to them as "she" is a figure of speech of sorts or a peculiar term of endearment used to express tender feelings towards objects not just by their owners / operators but also in broader contexts.

    If this were the case, I suppose it would be in order for me to say for example: how can I thank this FORUM for HER existence?
    You're right that it's a figure of speech but I don't think that you can just choose to refer to something as "she/her" just because you feel good feelings towards it. Reference to things in such a way has happened over a long period and are not even noticed by native speakers much of the time. If you wrote "How can I thank this forum for her existence?" most native speakers would see that as a basic error and would think that you believed that English nouns do actually have gender.

    In addition, you can't thank a forum. You can thank the members.

  10. #10
    JarekSteliga is offline Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Interested in Language
      • Native Language:
      • Polish
      • Home Country:
      • Poland
      • Current Location:
      • Poland
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Posts
    409
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Re: gender of English nouns

    [QUOTE=TheParser;842157]
    Quote Originally Posted by JarekSteliga View Post


    NOT A TEACHER


    Mr. Steliga,


    When you have time, you may wish to google: "She" is no longer a ship.

    In 2002, the Daily Telegraph of London had a most interesting article on this matter.

    Thank you. I googled and read it as suggested.

    I was very hesitant prior to opening this thread but am now nothing but pleased for having done so as the matter of English nound gender is clearly in some situations felt strongly about and of interest not just to the learners of the language.

Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. English Grammar-Nouns
    By Unregistered in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 19-Jun-2007, 19:40
  2. Gender Inclusive English - Help Needed!
    By basiek in forum General Language Discussions
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 23-Oct-2005, 09:54
  3. mass nouns quantitative expressions to pluralize nouns
    By Anonymous in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 15-Jul-2004, 09:53
  4. gender
    By Anonymous in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 02-Jun-2003, 21:33

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •