He, she, they (and more)

As a best practice, when you meet someone new you should share your preferred pronouns and ask for theirs as well. So you might say: “Hi, I’m Mel. My pronouns are She/Her.”

If you’re not sure of someone’s gender and aren’t able to ask use ‘they’ or ‘their’ as the pronoun. Like this:

We got a missed call from someone this morning, but they didn’t leave a message.

One of the people at this morning’s workshop left their notebook on the table upstairs.

You may have been taught that there’s not a gender-neutral singular pronoun in English. But “they” does the job. It’s been used as a singular pronoun since the Bible (and probably before). And even if you’re following a style guide that says it’s a no-go—people always come before grammar. The singular “they” is used by many non-binary folks. So, we say: singular they all the way.

There are also plenty of other non-binary pronouns that people use too, like Ze/Zem. That’s why it’s important to ask. And if anyone ever says “those words are made up.” We’d like to remind them that all words are made up, in one way or another. So why not make our language as inclusive as it can be?

Me, I, myself?

We’ve all had a parent or teacher correct us at some point, along the lines of ‘It’s Billy and I…’ But it usually leaves us more confused than anything.

Pick your pronouns based on what they’re doing in the sentence.

* I, you, we, he, she and they are all for when the pronoun is doing the action – when they’re the subject. So, ‘He and I went to the store.’

* Me, us, you, her, him and them are for when something’s being done to the person (or people). As in, ‘The king gave me and William too many gifts to carry home.’

* My, mine, your, yours, hers, his, and theirs describe possession. ‘This is Elizabeth’s and my house.’

* Myself, yourself, himself, herself, ourselves and themselves are for when the person (or people) are doing something to or for themselves. Like, ‘I cleaned myself in the ocean.’

How to figure it out:

If in doubt, take out everything else around the pronoun and see what sounds right: ‘Will you give that to Aisha and me?’

‘Me’ isn’t a bad word. In fact, most of the time when people ‘correct’ it, it’s not wrong at all. So make sure you don’t overcorrect. ‘Myself’ is a victim of overcorrection as well – you rarely need it.