"He" can be used as a substitution of a male's name.
"He" and "she" are often used to refer to domesticated animals and sometimes non-domesticated animals of the respective sex.
A study has shown that "there was a rather extended period of time in the history of the English language when the choice of a supposedly masculine personal pronoun (him) said nothing about the gender or sex of the referent."
The use of "he" to refer to a person of unknown gender was often prescribed by manuals of style and school textbooks from the early 18th century until around the 1960s, an early example of which is Ann Fisher's 1745 grammar book "A New Grammar".
- A good student always does his homework.
- If someone asks you for help, give it to him.
- When a customer argues, always agree with him.
This may be compared to usage of the word man to humans in general.
- "All men are created equal."
- "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."
- "Man cannot live by bread alone."
Gender-specific pronouns were also prescribed when one might presume that most members of some group are the same gender (although in recent times, such presumptions are sometimes seen as offensive).
- A secretary should keep her temper in check.
- A janitor should respect his employers.
- Every plumber has his own tools.
- A nurse should always be kind to her patients.
The pronoun He, with a universally capitalized H, is often used to refer to the Supreme Being, or in Christian contexts, to Jesus Christ; "It", with a capitalized I, is also used when speaking of the Supreme Being's nature or Godhead, or in Christian contexts, to refer to the Logos; capitalized "He" and "It" have both been used to refer to the Holy Spirit. In Catholic Christian circles, the Blessed Sacrament is also referred to with the capitalized pronoun "It".
The gender system in Modern English is generally natural, semantic and logical; however it is most similar to languages whose gender systems primarily distinguish between the animate and inanimate, and between the personal and impersonal. In the table RP stands for relative pronoun and PP for personal pronoun.
|3. dual||doctor||who||he/she, he, they|
|impersonal||6. higher male animal||bull||which
|7. higher female animal||cow||which
|8. lower animal||ant||which||it (he/she)|
|inanimate||9. inanimate||carbon rod||which||it|
Notes: RP is relative pronoun and PP personal pronoun. Alternatives are presented in three ways:
slash (/) — used equally; above & below — first preferred; parentheses "()" — disputed or unusual usage.
English is a development of the West Germanic language family.
|1st||Singular||iċ||[ɪtʃ]||mec / mē||mē||mīn|
|Plural||wē||[weː]||ūsic||ūs||ūser / ūre|
|2nd||Singular||þū||[θuː]||þec / þē||þē||þīn|
Speakers of Old English (OE) considered each noun to have a grammatical gender — masculine, feminine or neuter. Pronouns were generally (but not always) selected to have the same grammatical gender as the noun they referred to. For example, dæg ([dæj] 'day') was masculine, so a masculine pronoun was used when referring to a day or days. The pronoun "he" was written he, as in Present-Day English (PrDE), but pronounced hē ([heː]), rather like PrDE hay.
|Person (gender)||Subject||Object||Possessive determiner||Possessive pronoun||Reflexive|
|ic / ich / I
|me / mi
|min / minen [pl.]
|min / mire / minre
|min one / mi selven
|þou / þu / tu / þeou
|þi / ti
|þin / þyn
|þeself / þi selven
|him[a] / hine[b]
|his / hisse / hes
|his / hisse
|sche[o] / s[c]ho / ȝho
|heo / his / hie / hies / hire
|hio / heo / hire / heore
|hit / him
|us / ous
|ure[n] / our[e] / ures / urne
|us self / ous silve
|ȝe / ye
|eow / [ȝ]ou / ȝow / gu / you
|eower / [ȝ]ower / gur / [e]our
|Ȝou self / ou selve
|Third||From Old English||heo / he||his / heo[m]||heore / her||-||-|
|From Old Norse||þa / þei / þeo / þo||þem / þo||þeir||-||þam-selue|
Many other variations are noted in Middle English sources due to difference in spellings and pronunciations. See Francis Henry Stratmann (1891). A Middle-English dictionary. [London]: Oxford University Press. and A Concise Dictionary of Middle English from A.D. 1150 TO 1580, A. L. Mayhew, Walter W. Skeat, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1888.
There was one change to the inflection of the masculine pronoun in Middle English. The OE dative form him replaced the OE accusative hine [hinə]. This meant that, in Middle English, there was no distinction between masculine and impersonal, except in the subject case of the third-person singular, until it from hit replaced him in the object case of the impersonal. Some scholars believe that "there was rather an extended period of time in the history of the English language when the choice of a supposedly masculine personal pronoun (him) said nothing about the gender or sex of the referent."
- Susanne Wagner, Gender in English Pronouns: Myth and Reality, PhD thesis, Albert Ludwigs Universität, 2003. Page 41.
- Patricia T. O'Conner; Stewart Kellerman (21 July 2009). "All-Purpose Pronoun". The New York Times.
- Randolf Sidney Quirk, Geoffrey Greenbaum and Ian Svartvik, A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, (London: Longman, 1985), p. 314.
- 'Ko', The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth edition, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000).
- Peter S Baker, Introduction to Old English Archived 10 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine., (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003).
- Greville Corbett, Gender, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).
- Susanne Wagner (22 July 2004). "Gender in English pronouns: Myth and reality" (PDF). Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg.
Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech and Jan Svartvik. A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, Longman, 1985.
|Look up he in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- William Malone Baskervill and James Witt Sewel, An English Grammar, 1896.
- 'He', The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth edition, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000)..