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Some languages mark words according to whether they are masculine, feminine or neuter. In English, we do not commonly mark nouns according to gender.

However, we use pronouns and possessive determiners to show gender (for example, he, she, it, his, hers):

She’s selling her house.

Some nouns which refer to living things can be marked for gender (e.g. actress, heroine). Some people may consider such words to be dated.

More commonly, words such as actor are used to refer to both male and female. Some nouns which used to end in -man are now neutral and are used to include both genders:

chair (preferred to chairman)

flight attendant (preferred to steward and stewardess)

spokesperson (preferred to spokesman)

The title Ms is preferred to Mrs (married woman) or Miss (unmarried woman) so that we cannot tell whether the woman is married or not.

We give some animals male and female words:

  1. tigertigress

  2. dogbitch

We can use the pronoun it to refer to very small children and babies when we speak generally about them, or when we do not know their gender. We also use it to refer to animals when they’re not pets or when we don’t know them personally:

The baby in the flat next door is always awake and it just never seems to stop crying.

(“Gender” from English Grammar Today © Cambridge University Press. Need grammar practice? Try English Grammar Today with Workbook.)
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