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Does a language exist without the words "he" and "she"?

So I've seen words that reference to a person's gender, either a boy or a girl.

But is there a language that doesn't specify that? Like they use "it" for both genders so you could never know without context which one they're talking about?

(This isn't a gender warrior post, I'm actually curious about the language itself if there is one that does this)

August 12, 2017



he and she:

Finnish: hän

Estonian: ta Hungarian: ő

Turkish: o

Persian: u (او)

Malay: dia (inf.)

Indonesian: dia (inf.)

Cantonese: keui5 (佢)

Pipil: yaja

Quechua: pay

Bengali: se (সএ)

Armenian: na (նա)

Vietnamese: nó

Tagalog: siya

Nahuatl: yehuātl

Yoruba: oun

Many more.


Little side note for Vietnamese....

Even though it's a relatively gender-neutral language the Vietnamese course on Duolingo does have distinct words for "he" (anh ấy) and "she" (cô ấy). "Nó" in this context is probably closer to English "they (singular)" and Swedish "hen".


Can confirm, "siya" is used in Tagalog as the third person singular and it's gender neutral.

My mom has been speaking English for about 50 years and has lived in the US for 25 but she mixes up everyone's pronouns because separating out he/she, his/her, and him/her when speaking still isn't completely natural to her.


Hindustani (Hindi + Urdu) uses यह/يہ‏‏ ye and वह/وہ vo ("this", "that" respectively). They vary only on proximity, they do not vary on gender and do not vary on number in spoken language or written Urdu. They are pronounced the same as the plural pronouns, but Hindi still writes them differently (यह yah vs ये ye and वह vah vs वे vo).


Swahili. It uses the word yeye for both he and she.


Guarani uses ha'e as the third person singular pronoun for both genders.


Finnish has hän, which is a third person pronoun that is used for everybody, regardless of gender.


Ok. Can you give an example?


OK. issa vala: he is a man

is: issa; man: vala


High Valyrian has 4 genders: aquatic, lunar, solar and terrestrial.


Isn't it aquatic, lunar, solar and terrestrial? I'm not really a Valyrian expert but while reading about the grammar I remember one of the names having to do with the earth. Either way it's probably one of the most interesting gender systems I've seen.


How about she is? Is the pronoun omitted here because the conjugated verb carries number and person?


Yes the verb carries number and person. But not gender.

There are pronouns which agree with grammatical gender.

ūja ['uːja]
pers.pron. it, (he, she) (terrestrial, aquatic)

ziry ['ziɾy]
pron. he, she, (it) (solar lunar)

Source: https://wiki.dothraki.org/High_Valyrian_Vocabulary

Both ābra and vala are lunar grammatical gender, so if the pronoun was included:

ziry ābra issa = she is a woman
ziry vala issa = he is a man


In Mandarin the same sound is used for he, she, and it, but they all have different characters. Originally the same character was used for both he and she, but now a separate character is usually used for she which replaces the person radical with the woman radical.


I remember learning some Mandarin years back. I thought there were words for he and she??


They have "ta1" which is both "he" and "she", there is a neutral character and a female character, but both sound the same.


Was it... Sumerian? Akkadian? One of those languages of early civilization separated not by grammatical gender but by animate vs. inanimate. People, statues and dogs get one animate pronoun and things get a different pronoun.


Apparently Sumerian. You can see there are also modern languages like Ojibwe that still use animate vs inanimate instead of masculine/feminine/neuter.


This article on wikipedia seems to cover the topic you are discussing. The article's coverage of "Austronesian languages" suggest that they might be a sepcific example of what you mean. That said, I suspect every language has gender references in some fashion, since there is no avoiding the topic.


It depends on what is meant. Not all languages mentioned in the article match with the question. There are languages where you can only tell the gender by context because there is no different word for them. But some languages in the article have different words for he and she.

In Khmer, Thai, Mongolian, Japanese, Modern English, Zulu, Xhosa and many other languages that do not have gender the pronoun for he and she is different.

I'm not sure if the Dravidian languages have gender but there pronouns are different for he and she.


In spoken Mandarin Chinese the word for 'he', 'she', and 'it' is the same. The characters used to write these words are different.


Lingala uses 'a' which is a language spoken in the two Congos.


I think that "he/she" is the same in the Cree language as well. The reason why I think that is because sometimes when I've heard them talking English, when they're supposed to say "he", they say "she" or vice versa.

I looked up some websites about it. The Cree Dictionary link has the same word for "he" as for "she"


Also this website has the same words for "she/he sees/hears"



In American Sign Language (ASL), gender is usually omitted from "he" and "she". There are ways to specify a person's gender when desired, but it's also very possible to give a person's name and then sign he/she in a way that doesn't reveal the person's gender.


Low Saxon is 'relatively' gender-neutral in pronoun usage, although it all depends on the exact dialect. Many of them use 'ie' for both 'he' and 'she' and 'z'n eigen' (or something alike) for 'his/herself' 'ie wast z'n eigen' can' mean both 'he washes himself' and 'she washes herself'. Still, he/she washes him/herself can also be something like 'hie/zie wast hum' so the exact 'gender-neutralness' depends on the dialect.


Hindustani (Hindi + Urdu) uses यह/يہ‏‏ ye and वह/وہ vo ("this", "that" respectively). They vary only on proximity, they do not vary on gender and do not vary on number in spoken language or written Urdu. They are pronounced the same as the plural pronouns, but Hindi still writes them differently (यह yah vs ये ye and वह vah vs वे vo).

Igbo uses ya, which becomes o/ọ for verbs.


You can go to https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/he#English , look at the translations under the English definition, and CTRL+F for "both male and female"


Klingon uses ghaH for both "he" and "she", i.e. for all beings capable of using language. 'oH is for "it" -- non-language-users such as animals and inanimate objects.


armenian:նա (na) azerbaijani:o cebuano:siya chichewa:iye filipino:siya kreyol:li hindi:वह (vah) hmong:nws igbo:ọ indonesian:dia kazakh:ол (ol) kyrgyz:ал (al) malagasy:izy maori:ko ia mongolian:тэр (ter) pashto:هغه persian:او punjabi:ਉਹ samoan:ia sesotho:eena shona:iye sundanese:manehna swahili:yeye turkish:o urdu:وہ and to close off,xhosa and zulu use yena


I'm a native Turkish speaker. In Turkish, the personal pronoun ''o''. It is used for men, women, non-living things, animals and such.

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