Gender concord

From Teflpedia

Gender concord involves concord for grammatical gender. In English, gender concord is restricted to phoric concord in which third person singular pronouns typically must agree with the gender of the noun (typically a person or thing) which they reference.

Gender concord in English[edit]

For example, we can say:

Example sentence Notes
"After the man went running, he was very tired." He is an anaphor for "the man"; they agree since they are both masculine. We wouldn't say *"After the man went running, she was very tired." or "After the man went running, it was very tired."
"After the woman went running, she was very tired." "She" is an anaphor for "the woman"; they agree since they are both feminine.
"Kelly had a plant. It was beautiful." "It" is an anaphor for "the plant"; they agree since they are both neuter.

The above references are anaphoric, but they can also be cataphoric, and exophoric.

Unclear pronoun referents.

Gender neutral language[edit]

Gender neutral language is often used, especially in academic English. To do this, we can either use co-ordinated gender pronouns or singular they:

Example sentence Notes
"If a person wants to succeed in life, he or she must work hard" co-ordinated gender pronouns
"If a person wants to succeed in life, he/she must work hard" co-ordinated gender pronouns
"If a person wants to succeed in life, they must work hard" singular they

It seems logical to keep the whole lexical chain gender neutral, especially in formal registers.

Examples from other languages[edit]

In other languages, gender concord has additional effects. e.g. in German pronouns and articles must agree, and in French pronouns, articles and adjectives must agree.

German[edit]

In another Germanic language, German, singular nouns are marked for gender, as well as case and number:

Gender Definite article Indefinite article Example Meaning
Masculine der ein der Mann the man
Feminine die eine die Frau the woman
Neuter das einen das Auto the car

This system is broadly similar to that found in Old English, which English has lost.

French[edit]

French grammar is less closely related to English than German grammar. There is no neuter. It shows concord for adjectives as well. Feminine adjectives take the feminine -e suffix:

Gender Definite article indefinite article adjective agreement Example Meaning
Masculine le un none un grand magasin

le grand magasin

a big shop

the big shop

Feminine la une -e la grande ville

une grande ville

the big town

a big town

Loan phrases in English[edit]

The exception to this is loan phrases from French and Latin, which can retain their concord present in their original language when transferred into English.

[examples]