How do I use personal pronouns?

When a person shares their pronouns, they are naming the pronouns that they want to be referred to by in the singular third person (when referring to that person while talking to someone else). Singular pronouns in the first person (when referring to yourself) or second person (when referring to a person when talking to that same person) do not vary. For reference, however, we have included examples of singular first person and second person pronouns, as well third person pronouns.

Singular first person pronouns (that you should continue to use, as is):

I am a writer and wrote that book myself. Those ideas are mine. Do you like both me and my ideas?”

Singular second person pronouns (that you should continue to use, as is):

You are a writer and wrote that book yourself. Those ideas are yours. I like both you and your ideas.”

Singular third person pronouns (that you should use as appropriate based on the pronouns the person being referred to goes by):

Each of the following sets of pronouns may be the sets that certain people indicate should be used to refer to them. Below, they are presented in the forms of most common usage.

Usually, the “they/them” pronouns set is acceptable to use when you don’t yet know if a person goes by another set or sets of pronouns. You can learn more about the centuries of history behind the singular “they” pronoun to refer to an individual in the resources section. It is also possible to avoid pronouns, as demonstrated below under “no pronouns.”

Just because a person goes by a certain set or sets of pronouns is not indicative of that person’s gender. A person could be transgender or not transgender (also called “cisgender” - the vast majority of the population is cisgender) and might share the pronouns they go by. A person could be a man or a woman or both or neither and share any number of these sets of pronouns as the correct ones to use for them, but which set they go by is not necessarily indicative of their gender, even though for most people there is an association between the pronouns they go by and the gender they are.

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She/Her: “She is a writer and wrote that book herself. Those ideas are hers. I like both her and her ideas.”

He/Him: “He is a writer and wrote that book himself. Those ideas are his. I like both him and his ideas.”

They/Them: “They are a writer and wrote that book themself. Those ideas are theirs. I like both them and their ideas.” Please note that although “they” pronouns here are singular and refer to an individual, the verbs are conjugated the same as with the plural “they” (e.g. “they are”). Also note that in this singular pronoun set many use “themself” rather than “themselves,” although both are typically acceptable.

Ze/Hir: “Ze is a writer and wrote that book hirself. Those ideas are hirs. I like both hir and hir ideas.” Please note that “ze” is usually pronounced with a long “e” and that “hir” and its forms are usually pronounced like the English word “here.” Some people instead go by "ze/zir" pronouns because of the more consistent pronunciation and spelling - see the resources section for more pronouns sets.

No Pronouns - Use My Name (example for someone whose name is “Lan”): “Lan is a writer and wrote that book. Those ideas are Lan’s. I like both Lan and Lan’s ideas.” If the reflexive component was important to communicate a message, you could use alternative language such as “Lan wrote that book unassisted” or “Lan was the sole author of that book.” Some might simply say "Lan wrote the book Lan's self."

There are additional sets of pronouns that some people might use (e.g. ze/zir, per/pers, ey/em, xe/xem, etc.). Please check with the person who goes by those pronouns and/or look for online resources to determine the proper ways to utilize them. Some people go by multiple sets of pronouns, and usually that means that it is okay to use any of the sets they go by. Some people ask that others vary the pronouns that are used within certain sets of pronouns. If in doubt about what that means for someone or to request examples of how to do that in practice, let the person know you want to be supportive and ask the person for more information or examples so that you can get it right.

Please note that there are also nonbinary, gender-neutral titles (e.g. "Mx." usually pronounced like "mix" instead of "Mr." or "Ms.") and nonbinary, gender-neutral language that can be used for everyone (e.g. "friends and guests" instead of "ladies and gentlemen"). While this website is focused on pronouns, you can find more information about gender-neutral language through our resources page.

You can also find more information about some of the more common pronouns sets through these links, which can also be used as a way to point others towards information about that pronoun set:

Now that you know how to use personal pronouns, what if you make a mistake or you see someone make a mistake by using the incorrect pronoun?

Continue to the next section - Mistakes