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  1. #1
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    Personal pronoun "he" for animals ?

    Hello !

    At school I have learned that "he" and "she" as personal pronouns can only be used for persons, for animals it would be "it".

    Now I'm reading an English book with an article in it resuming the story of a Palestinian film.
    I quote :
    "When the horse strays into the minefield, the village is helpless to retrieve him without further endangering human lives ; he must be 'rescued' by the Israelis, who can read their military diagrams and translate maps of death and injury into life-saving steps."

    In this text, horse is followed by the pronouns "him" and "he". Is that correct English ?

    Thank you for helping replies in advance.

    AG

  2. #2
    Teia is offline Key Member
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    Re: Personal pronoun "he" for animals ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
    Hello !
    At school I have learned that "he" and "she" as personal pronouns can only be used for persons, for animals it would be "it".
    Now I'm reading an English book with an article in it resuming the story of a Palestinian film.
    I quote :
    "When the horse strays into the minefield, the village is helpless to retrieve him without further endangering human lives ; he must be 'rescued' by the Israelis, who can read their military diagrams and translate maps of death and injury into life-saving steps."
    In this text, horse is followed by the pronouns "him" and "he". Is that correct English ?
    Thank you for helping replies in advance.
    AG

    Hi

    Yes, it is correct.

    The third person singular pronouns "he", "she" and "it" usually distinguish between antecedents which refer to human beings, and antecedents which refer to things which are not human. The pronouns he and she usually refer to human beings. However, "he" or "she" may also be used to refer to an animal, if the gender of the animal is known to the speaker and / or if the animal is a pet [ and it is considered as a "member" of the family]. The horse [in your example ] is the main character on which the story is centered; i.e. "he" is a specific animal not an ordinary one in this story.

    e.g. My aunt is very intelligent. She has a degree in Philosophy.
    His brother was not there, because he had to work late.
    Your dog is well trained. He is a good guard dog.

    In the first two examples, "he" and "she" are used to refer to human beings. In the third example, "he" is used to refer to an animal.

    If a third person singular antecedent does not refer to a human being, the pronoun "it" is usually used. However, when the thing named by the antecedent is referred to as if it had human qualities, the pronoun "he" or "she" may be used. For instance, ships and countries are sometimes referred to as "she".
    e.g. There is a robin on the lawn. It has a nest in that tree.
    This is a good book. It is interesting and well-written.
    The Bonnie Belle is a sailing ship. She is very seaworthy.

    In the first two examples, it is used to refer to things which are not human. In the third example, she is used to refer to a thing which is not human.


    Ships and countries [Source : Wikipedia]
    .... "Traditionally ships have been referred to using the feminine pronouns (even ships named after men, such as the USS Abraham Lincoln), as well as countries and oceans. The origins of this practice are not certain, and it is currently in decline (though more common for ships, particularly in nautical usage, than for countries). In modern English, it can be said that the use of the pronoun "she" to refer to inanimate objects is an optional figure of speech........"


    I hope it helps.

    Regards,
    Last edited by Teia; 09-Jan-2007 at 19:01.

  3. #3
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    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Re: Personal pronoun "he" for animals ?

    Wow, teia. That's worth keeping. Thanks

    It's worth adding that the sex of some animals is automatically known - you would never refer to a cow as 'he', or to a bull as 'she'.

    b

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    Re: Personal pronoun "he" for animals ?

    Just a footnote to the above postings:

    Feminine pronoun can also be used for a vehicle/car. i.e.

    "Fill HER up, please, said the yellow car driver to the gas station jockey/attendant."

    "Wow, SHE is a cool car! How many people do you know own, love, dream about a '72 VW Beetle named "Baby"!?"

    Note: By my observation, this now is an old-fashioned usage. In this 21st century politically corrected world, most men (I don't think, women would usually call a car "she/her" as it's considered an sexist attitude.) would avoid this kind of use. Nonetheless, you will still hear some people use it in a humorous way, namely in connection with the examples above.

  5. #5
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    Re: Personal pronoun "he" for animals ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kurt View Post
    ...
    Note: By my observation, this now is an old-fashioned usage. In this 21st century politically corrected world, most men (I don't think, women would usually call a car "she/her" as it's considered an sexist attitude.) would avoid this kind of use. Nonetheless, you will still hear some people use it in a humorous way, namely in connection with the examples above.
    I knew a woman (admittedly, in the twentieth century) who called her car 'she'. But your observation generally agrees with mine: men are much more likely to use this sort of 'she'.

    b

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    Re: Personal pronoun "he" for animals ?

    Hi,
    However, I've heard he said even when the gender is not known - about flies, mice.

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