Background on neopronouns

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What are pronouns?

English has seven pronouns. Usually, we put them into a table like this that helps us talk about them:

Third-Personhe, she, itthey
Table 1: Standard English pronoun paradigm.

First-person, second-person, and third-person are also used to refer to points of view that stories can be written from.

In English, singular third-person pronouns usually match a person or living thing’s gender. Nonbinary people who don’t feel that “he” or “she” is correct often use singular “they.” Although we often think of “they” as a plural pronoun, people have used “they” as a singular pronoun for hundreds of years. The only “correct” form of language is the language people use.

In many languages, the same pronoun may have a different form depending on the job it’s doing in a sentence. These different forms are called the “case” of the pronoun. English cases can be inconsistent, but other languages like German have more consistent case systems. Some languages like Chinese don’t have cases at all.

Usually, the subject performs the action. The object receives the action. The possessive owns something.

Example 1: They [subject] took me [object] to the store.

Example 2: I [subject] went to the store with them [object].

Example 3: We [subject] rode in their [possessive] car.

The next table shows all of the standard pronouns in English arranged by case.

Table 2: Standard English pronouns arranged by case.

What is a neopronoun?

While many languages have third-person pronouns without gender, English only has “they.” Some people oppose “they” for ideological reasons. Others want to explore pronouns beyond singular “they.” Over many times and places, many people have created new third-person pronouns, which we will call “neopronouns.”

We don’t create new pronouns as often as we create new nouns or verbs, so many people struggle at first with neopronouns. However, the very existence of stories with neopronouns shows that neopronouns can be used with a little practice.

Some people might say that neopronouns aren’t real words because they aren’t in the dictionary, and because they aren’t real words, you shouldn’t use them. But the fact that these pronouns aren’t in the dictionary is irrelevant to whether or not you can use them in your writing. Dictionaries will always be slower than people’s creation of new words.

Examples of neopronouns

Table 3: Examples of neopronouns arranged by case.

This table only shows a tiny subsection of possible neopronouns. There are many more, and you can also create your own.