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Sie and hir

Sie and hir are two terms proposed to serve as gender-neutral third person singular personal pronouns in English (see gender-neutral pronouns). These neologisms are used by some people who feel that there are problems with gender-specific pronouns because they imply sex and/or gender (see non-sexist language). However, sie and hir are very rare compared to other solutions and most commentators feel that it is unlikely that they will catch on.

The recommended usage is shown in the table below. See Declension for more information on each of the cases.

Subject Object Possessive Adjective Possessive Pronoun Reflexive
Male He laughed I hit him His face bled I am his He shaves himself
Female She laughed I hit her Her face bled I am hers She shaves herself
Gender-free Sie laughed I hit hir Hir face bled I am hirs Sie shaves hirself

You can capitalise these words for all of the reasons you might capitalise other pronouns. For example, if you believe in a transgendered deity, then you might pray to Hir in the hope that Sie will intervene in your life.

Table of contents


The ancestors of this pronoun set could date back to at least the 1930s: to hes, hir, hem (quoted in the Washington Post), and se, sim, sis (quoted in the Liverpool Echo[?]). Some people believe that the current form has been in use since the 1980s.

hir probably comes from patching together his, him, and her - sharing the common "h" and taking an "i" from his or him and an "r" from her. Alternatively, it might come from the pronoun hir in Chaucer's English, meaning 'her'. Once you have hir, extending it to hirs and hirself is quite natural.

One theory for the origin of sie is that it came from S(he), I(t), (h)E. Another is that it was borrowed from the German sie, which means you, she, her, it, they, or them depending on context.


Consider someone trying to put a left hand into a right-handed glove; if either the glove or the hand is replaced with its reverse you'll get a gloved hand. Obviously this doesn't work if the person specifically wants this glove on hir left hand
First recorded usage (http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=anews.Aucbvax.1420&output=gplain) of hir on usenet - May 26, 1981

Pronunciation Guide

Like many neologisms introduced on the internet, different people pronounce these words in different ways. The most common pronunciations are included here, along with pronunciation (guides) - see the SAMPA Phonetic Alphabet to decode them.

  • Sie (si:) or (zi:). About three quarters of people in a quick sample of usenet said they pronounced this roughly like see (si:), while the rest said they pronounced it roughly like zee (zi:).
  • Hir (hi:@(r)) or (h3:). About three quarters of the sample said they pronounced this roughly like here hi:@(r), while the rest said they pronounced it roughly like her h3:.
  • Hirs and Hirself - extended from hir in the way you'd expect: adding an "s" or self sound onto the end. Of course, this can vary depending on how you choose to pronounce hir!

Problems with 'sie' and 'hir'

These are some of the arguments some people make against these pronouns:

  • There are existing solutions, such as singular they, that render neologisms unnecessary.

  • sie and hir are ugly and cumbersome.

  • The variation in pronunciation and the similarity to the corresponding female pronouns and other words could cause confusion.

  • sie and hir have a female bias, because they sound similar to the corresponding female pronouns. (Historically this was an asset: the initial uptake was probably helped by irritation at the use of male pronouns as gender-free terms)

Supporters of 'sie' and 'hir' do not accept these criticisms, or feel they do not outweigh the advantages of these words.


  • Zie and zir were introduced slightly later to correct the perceived female bias of sie and hir. This pronoun set is now thought to be about as common as sie and hir, though neither are widespread.

  • Xe is another common replacement for sie

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