Remaining politically neutral during General Election 2024

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What are pronouns?

Tori_Scope Scope Posts: 12,499 Disability Gamechanger

What are pronouns?

Pronouns are a set of words that can stand in a sentence in place of a person's name for ease of flow. Typically pronouns are tied to gender, so the conscious use of pronouns is important to respecting gender identity.

Many people use he/him and she/her pronouns, which are typically tied to male and female genders. 

Other people may use they/them or neo-pronouns, which are more gender-neutral. For example:

Tori likes looking at pictures of ducks. She likes how they make her feel.

Bob enjoys gaming, as he finds it helps him to relax.

Taylor plays the drums. They're in a band, which makes them happy.

Can I use a singular 'they'?

Yes, definitely! The singular 'they' has been in use for a long time.

We will note that they has been in consistent use as a singular pronoun since the late 1300s; that the development of singular they mirrors the development of the singular you from the plural you, yet we don’t complain that singular you is ungrammatical; and that regardless of what detractors say, nearly everyone uses the singular they in casual conversation and often in formal writing.

It's therefore perfectly fine to refer to an individual person using they/them pronouns. You should do this if they ask you to, and can also do it if you don't know someone's pronouns. For example:

I met a new person called Drew at work today. They asked me to use they/them pronouns when I refer to them.

I think a delivery driver came to the house today. They didn't knock very loudly though, which was annoying of them!

What are neo-pronouns?

In basic terms, neo-pronouns are any pronouns other than he, she or they. 

Some people use neo-pronouns to avoid mixing plural they/them pronouns with singular they/them pronouns; some as they feel these types of pronouns help express their personal gender better; and some use these simply because they don’t relate to the pronouns society commonly deems appropriate.

These can include:
  • Xe/Xem/Xyr
  • Ey/Em/Eir
  • Zie/Zim/Zir
  • Ve/Ver/Vis
  • Ne/Nem/Nir

You can use these in sentences in the same way that you use more common pronouns. For example:

Dan is a good artist. Xe draws portraits. I commissioned xem to draw a picture of me and my friends.

Can someone use multiple pronouns?

They can indeed.
Some people may use multiple pronouns. You can use any of those pronouns that they allow.


person holding a whiteboard saying hello my pronouns are

How can I ask what someone's pronouns are?

A good way to approach it is to introduce yourself along with your own pronouns, such as "Hi, I'm Tori. I use she/her pronouns".

Remember that not everyone will feel comfortable sharing their pronouns. This could be because they feel unsafe, or because they're unsure about which pronouns they'd like you to use.

It's important not to pressure anyone into sharing their pronouns. Speaking to the person in private after the initial conversation can be a good way to go about it if you're unsure. For example, you could say "Which pronouns should I use for you?”.

What if I accidentally refer to someone by the wrong pronouns?

Don't worry, it happens! Most people will be understanding and patient, especially if you're used to referring to them in a new or different way.
The best thing to do if you use the wrong pronoun for someone is to say something right away, like “Sorry, I meant (insert pronoun)”.

If you realize your mistake after the fact, apologize in private and move on.

UWM LGBTQ+ Resource Center

This Instagram post by Ethan Tai Bossuyt is also a good resource on learning new pronouns, and what to do if you slip up.

How are pronouns linked to gender identity and expression? 


Often expressed in terms of masculinity and femininity, gender is largely culturally determined and is assumed from the sex assigned at birth.

Gender identity

A person’s innate sense of their own gender, whether male, female or something else (see non-binary below), which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned at birth.

Gender expression

How a person chooses to outwardly express their gender, within the context of societal expectations of gender. A person who does not conform to societal expectations of gender may not, however, identify as trans.

Everyone has pronouns that are used when referring to them – and getting those pronouns right is not exclusively a transgender issue.

"...when you're speaking to people, it's a really simple way to affirm their identity."

"It's really just about letting someone know that you accept their identity. And it's as simple as that."


Using the right pronouns for someone is therefore a simple way of recognising their identity. Though it might seem like a small thing to some people, it can be really important to someone else.

Over to you...

Sharing your pronouns on the community

No one's under any pressure to share their pronouns on the community, for any reason. However, sharing your pronouns (whatever your gender identity) can be a way to normalise it, and therefore reduce the stigma for those who use neo-pronouns, or who may change their pronouns. 

If you'd like to share your pronouns, you can do so by editing your signature, like I've done :) 

Do you have any questions?

I hope that you've learnt something by reading this post. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask, and we can do our best to answer them!

If you've learnt something new, please also feel free to share that in the comments below :)

Happy Pride Month!

National Campaigns Officer at Scope, she/her


  • leeCal
    leeCal Community member Posts: 7,550 Disability Gamechanger
    How complicated life is becoming. ☹️

    “This is my simple religion. No need for temples. No need for complicated philosophy. Your own mind, your own heart is the temple. Your philosophy is simple kindness.” 
    ― Dalai Lama XIV

  • Tori_Scope
    Tori_Scope Scope Posts: 12,499 Disability Gamechanger
    Is there anything in particular that you find complicated about it @leeCal? I know I covered a few different topics in my post, but I'd be happy to explain a little more about anything you're unsure about, or point you in the direction of some helpful resources :) 

    National Campaigns Officer at Scope, she/her

  • 66Mustang
    66Mustang Community member Posts: 14,982 Disability Gamechanger
    I agree @leeCal life is getting very complicated but if this allows people to feel comfortable with their own identity I think we have to try to accommodate.
  • Tori_Scope
    Tori_Scope Scope Posts: 12,499 Disability Gamechanger
    I'd agree with that @66Mustang :) Learning new pronouns, or changing the pronouns you use for someone, can be tricky, but it's so worth it if it makes someone else feel comfortable and valid! 

    National Campaigns Officer at Scope, she/her

  • Siwheels73
    Siwheels73 Scope Member Posts: 748 Pioneering
    As @leeCal has said, life has become too complicated.  Historic conventions worked for a huge amount of time. Not sure how these new ones have came have come about.
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