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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > personal pronouns for animals    

personal pronouns for animals



MarionG
Netherlands

personal pronouns for animals
 
Hi,
I have a question. I have always been taught that we use the pronoun ┤it ┤ for animals. Still, when talking about an animal I know ┤personally ┤ (my own cats for instance), or about a famous animal (garfield, scooby doo etc.) I will always use ┤he ┤or ┤she ┤.  "Garfield is very lazy and he is very fat. This is my cat Mokka, she has only one eye" It sounds akward to use ┤it ┤ in these cases, but maybe I am wrong.
Can someone explain the exact rules?
( in a discussion with my own kids yesterday evening we figured that maybe you can use he and she as soon as you give the animal a name, but I would like to clear this up before discussing it in class.)
I would appreciate your help.
Thanks in advance, marion
 

7 Aug 2009      



joy2bill
Australia

I don ┤t think there are really any rules for this. However if you consider an animal as part of the family ( almost human) then it gets "he" or "she". This was probably started by people who have "fur children" ie animals that are treated the same as children. I guess that makes your idea of a named animal quite valid.
Cheers Joy

7 Aug 2009     



douglas
United States

Pretty much like Ladybird says:
 
If you know the animal is a male you use "he", if you know it ┤s a female you use "she", if you don ┤t know the gender you use "it"
 
If it is not a pet you can get away with using "it" even if you know the gender.
 
Also loving the "hot and sunny" Germany

7 Aug 2009     



MarionG
Netherlands

Ok, so instinctively both me and my kids were using it the correct way...In class i am going to add this when teaching personal pronouns. (In hebrew all things are either masculine or feminine so the whole ┤it ┤ issue is complicated as it is and this might actually help them grasp it!)
Thanks for answering, Ladybug and Douglas!

7 Aug 2009     



libertybelle
United States

My students made the rule that if you know its a he or she, than you can use those expressions -but most important, if it is a pet you love than you would always use he and she and never it. (who can love an IT, they say!!)LOL

L

7 Aug 2009     



goodnesses
Algeria

If it is about the rules, in this case there is only one rule. "All that is not a person take the pronoun "it" in the singular." But when it comes to animals most people forget about it, especially when their feelings towards these animals not only pets are concerned.

Example, when some kids see a cat they have never seen before at the windows, there first reaction is automatically something like, "Oh! look there ┤s a cat at the window. She is beautiful!" They say "she" (very often) though they don ┤t know the cat and its gender simply because children express their feelings before anything  else.

So, I think the rule (my) is express it as you feel it.

7 Aug 2009     



douglas
United States

But Goodnesses, if you call my dog "he" (she ┤s not male), my kids (native speakers) would be quick to correct you and tell you that she ┤s a she, not a he.
 
I usually teach my students that if it has (or had) a heartbeat then you should use the correct masculine or feminine pronoun, otherwise everything else is an "it". 
 
It always used to throw me off when speaking German and someone would refer to a chair as "he".  I would usually look around to see if soemone had come in or ask who hey were talking about--I┬┤ve gotten better about it, but it still throws me off sometimes.

7 Aug 2009     



goodnesses
Algeria

Sure they would, Douglas. But isn ┤t it mostly because it is their dog and know it well and amso because they learned to make the distinction with time.
Then, I would never call your dog neither "she" nor "he" I am loosing the bottom of my pants in any case. I ┤ll stay neutral and call her "it".

7 Aug 2009     



goodnesses
Algeria

Don ┤t tell me about German. I had my doze of headaches and sleepless nights because of those "die" , "da▀" , "der" , "dieser" and company.

7 Aug 2009     



MarionG
Netherlands

I took German as well (for 4 years!) and I remember the test with 30 mistakes...29 of them with der des dem den die dessen etc.etc. etc.!! Am I glad English is easier!!!

7 Aug 2009     



tricia973
Uruguay

Well, when I was studying we were taught that animals take the ┤he ┤ or ┤she ┤ pronoun only if they are our pets or we have feelings towards a certain animal in particular. I remember we read that rule in grammar books.. I don ┤t remember the grammarians ┤ names... (it ┤s been a long time...) but since then it ┤s very clear to me that it ┤s a matter of feelings.

 
Other ┤objects ┤ take these pronouns (he/she) as well such as ships or countries...
 
Interesting topic!!

7 Aug 2009     

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