Pronouns organized into subjective, objective, possessive and reflexive with examples.

Gender Pronouns

Please note that these are not the only pronouns. There are an infinite number of pronouns as new ones emerge in our languages. Always ask someone for their pronouns. This image is modified from Trans Student Educational Resources.

Why Pronouns Matter

Western Michigan University embraces the diversity of our students, faculty, and staff to create a welcoming environment so that all may learn. Respecting someone means respecting their pronouns as it validates their identity. When people talk about “preferred pronouns,” they are usually referring to the pronouns they would use to refer to another person, rather than “I” or “me.” This is because the pronouns that other people use might not be immediately obvious. Reinforcing a person's pronouns can create a safe environment and let others know that you are a person who accepts different gender identities.

  • Why aren't pronouns obvious?

    In contemporary English, people have generally been referred to by one of two sets of pronouns: “she/her/hers” for women, and “he/him/him” for men. Generally when someone meets a new person, they make a snap judgement about whether that person is a man or a woman and use the corresponding pronouns. 

    Not everyone looks conventionally masculine or feminine - and some people are neither! People who are transgender, nonbinary, or just don’t particularly conform to gendered stereotypes all upend our ability to make quick decisions about what gender someone is. Not everybody uses “he/him” or “she/her” pronouns. Because those are both so heavily tied to two rigidly defined genders, some people prefer to express their sense of gender by using pronouns that aren’t tied to any particular gender. "They” has been used as an ungendered pronoun in English since at least the 14th century, and is the most commonly genderless pronoun.

    Some people get confused by the prospect of using “they” as a pronoun, and it can require a bit of practice to get used to. Some people prefer other, more recently invented pronouns as a break from gender. These are sometimes called “neo-pronouns,” and some examples may include xe/xem/xyr, e/em/eir, and ve/ver/vis. 

  • What can I do?

    In addition to asking for people’s pronouns when you aren’t sure, there are some small things you can do to help normalize the idea of asking instead of assuming. For instance, including your pronouns on name tags, social media bios, and email signatures is a relatively simple gesture that indicates you are aware of how pronouns are used and why it’s worthwhile to indicate your own while asking others about them.

    You can also develop a habit of introducing yourself with your own pronouns, no matter how “obvious” you might think it is. This is especially helpful if you are someone who is always or usually gendered correctly, as it normalizes having everyone share that information. Stating your pronouns first, rather than approaching a stranger to ask them first, opens up the conversation for them to share if they are willing to do so, since you’ve done it first. 

Additional Resources

The following links are additional resources to learn more about pronouns and why they're important.