Gender of Nouns in English


In English gender system affects only nouns and pronouns. Natural sex differentiations determine the distinctions between masculine and feminine, whereas inanimate things are usually neuter.

Kinds

There are four genders in English:

  • masculine e.g. policeman, man, dog, etc.
  • feminine e.g. waitress, woman, bitch, etc.
  • neuter e.g. chair, table, idea, etc.
  • common e.g. doctor, baby, etc. (i.e. nouns which can be either male of female):
    My baby is only half-a-year old and he already has three teeth.
    Is it your baby? How old is she?

Exceptions

Some neuter nouns are considered either masculine or feminine:

Some neuter nouns can be personified and then they become masculine or feminine:
a. masculine, e.g. the fatherland
b. femininine, e.g. creation, nature, luck (Lady Luck), the earth (Mother Earth), the mother-land, the mother-language (a mother-tongue), fortune, fame.

The names of countries, cities, and towns become feminine when they denote political or economic units, but when they indicate geographical units they are neuter.

Sometimes cars and trains are considered feminine, especially when an affectionate attitude is expressed.

4. The moon, religion, ships are feminine.

5. The sun and winter are always masculine.

The distinction between masculine and feminine

There are three ways in which masculine and feminine are distinguished:

1. The feminine is formed from the masculine by adding -ess: e.g. count — countess, host — hostess,
however, a number of nouns ending in -er or -or drop the -e- or the -o-:
e.g. waiter — waitress, actor — actress.
Also, other, including zero, morphological markers are used: e.g. bridegroom — bride, widower — widow, hero — heroine, usher — usherette, sultan — sultana, testator — testatrix.

2. Different words are used for masculine and feminine: e.g. uncle — aunt, bull — cow.

3. One element indicating the gender is introduced: e.g. man-servant — maid-servant, he-goat — she-goat. 'A gender marker' is also used when a given activity is expected to be male or female, thus:
e.g. a nurse but a male nurse, a doctor but a woman doctor.

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