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Understanding Use of Gender

written by: Meetu • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 6/6/2012

Understanding the usage of genders is important for correct sentence formation. It is necessary to know the gender of the noun to be able to use the correct pronoun. There are four genders in the English Language: Masculine, Feminine, Common and Neuter.

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    Types of Gender

    The word gender owes its origin to the Latin word ‘Genus’ meaning type, species, group. Gender is a sub topic of nouns in English. Before we proceed with genders let us answer the question:

    Why does one need to study gender in the English Language?

    The answer to this question is that it is important to ascertain the gender so that an appropriate pronoun and possessive adjective can be used in sentence construction. Understanding gender is easy in the English language, as it is simply a matter of presence or absence of the sex, unlike some other languages.

    Any guesses as to how many genders are there in the English Language?

    The answer is four. They are :

    • Masculine Gender
    • Feminine Gender
    • Common Gender
    • Neuter Gender

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    Masculine Gender: A noun that denotes the male genre is said to be of masculine gender. Example - man, gander, heir, sultan, grandfather.

    Feminine Gender: A noun that denotes the female genre is said to be of feminine gender. Example - woman, goose, heiress, sultana, grandmother

    Common Gender: A noun that can be used for both the male as well as the female genre is said to be of common gender. Example – cousin, parents, student, neighbor

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    Neuter Gender: A noun that is used for things which are neither male nor female are said to be of neuter gender. Example – book, table, pen, house

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    Formation of Feminine Gender

    There are three ways of forming the feminine gender:

    1) By adding suffixes such as –ess, -ine, -trix, -a.

    Example: The feminine gender of author is authoress (author + ess.)

    The feminine gender of hero is heroine (hero + ine)

    The feminine gender of sultan is sultana (sultan + a)

    2) By placing a word before or after the noun:

    Example: The feminine gender of manservant is maidservant. (Words man and maid

    are added before the word servant)

    The feminine gender of salesman is saleswoman. (Words man and woman are added after the word sales.)

    3) By using a completely different word:

    Example: The feminine gender of boy is girl.

    The feminine gender of colt is filly.

    The feminine gender of nephew is niece.

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    Remember:

    1) Objects without life are often personified as living beings and then we regard them as males or females.

    Example: Your car, she’s a beauty!

    2) The masculine gender is often used for objects regarded for their strength, violence etc..

    Example: The sun showed his anger for the whole day.

    3) The feminine gender is often used for objects representing beauty and grace.

    Example: Spring has spread her blanket all over.

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    Reference: High School English Grammar – Wren & Martin