“Gendering” (in English)

Patricia Hinsen-Rind
20. April 2021
“Gendering” (in English)

Here’s a test for you:

“A father and son get in a car crash and are rushed to the hospital. The father dies. The boy is taken to the operating room and the surgeon says, “I can’t operate on this boy, because he’s my son.”

How can that be?

Das Wort “gendering” gibt es zwar im Englischen, es wird aber selten gebraucht, die Bezeichnung gender-neutral ist gebräuchlicher.

English has the advantage that, unlike German, many words do not have a gender. However, there are still language areas where gender neutrality needs to be thought about. Examples are:

husband/wife = spouse
waiter/waitress = server
man = person
policeman = police officer
fireman = firefighter
salesman/saleswoman = sales person

English does use he/she however, so here are some ideas on how to handle that:

Use the plural for nouns and pronouns

A student who doesn’t study enough will have difficulties concentrating in his/her classes
can be rephrased to
Students who don’t study enough will have difficulties concentrating in their classes.

Another technique is to use “they” as a singular pronoun

Normally the word “they” refers to a plural form. However, using “they” in a singular form is possible. It is not common in formal writing, but quite common in speech. Here is an example:

Someone will pick you up at the airport; they’ll have a sign with your name.

Please note that the use of “they” in a singular written form is controversial. However, arguments that “they” should be adopted as English’s standard third-person, gender-neutral pronoun in all writing and speaking contexts are becoming louder.

Bitte beachten Sie, dass die Verwendung von “they” in der Singularform im Schriftlichen umstritten ist. Allerdings werden die Argumente lauter, dass “they” als geschlechtsneutrales Standardpronomen der dritten Person im Englischen in allen Schreib- und Sprechkontexten übernommen werden sollte.

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