Third person pronouns are words we use to refer to someone who isn’t you or me (such as “he” or “hers” or “them”). In English, third person pronouns are a remnant of the grammatical gender of Old English. Many modern languages use grammatical gender in ways that impact pronouns, and many other modern languages don’t use gendered pronouns at all. This post is about English pronoun usage only and may or may not apply to other languages.
Generally, third person pronouns are now used to indicate someone’s gender, and it’s common to think that we can tell someone’s gender — and therefore their pronoun — just by looking at them. This is based on assumptions that there are “correct” ways to look like a man or like a woman or even like a non-binary-gendered person. However, many people who use “he” or “she” as pronouns may not fit other people’s expectations of what a man or a woman looks like, many nonbinary people may look binary, and there are almost definitely many pronouns you haven’t heard of. Continue reading