Sie and hir

From ArticleWorld

Sie and hir are suggested as non-sexist and gender-neutral alternatives to the standard English language third person pronouns and their inflections, she/her, he/ him etc. Sexist or gender-biased langauge implies a gender in address, while also having certain stereotypes already built into it, such as assuming in the absence of other information that a third person referent is male, or that there are only two gender identities.

Theoretical arguments

The use of sie and hir is advocated by some feminists, as well as contemporary gender and social science theorists. For feminists, it removes the male bias in language use, where the male referent is the norm, and the female, the exception. In gender theory, gender identity is seen as a continuum or spectrum, with male and female two ends, but other possibilities in between. Language should thus accommodate transgender, intersex, and genderqueer people, and help change normative rules of male privilege. These attempts become important in light of the saturation in popular intellectual discourse of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which posits that there is a direct correlation between language and worldview.


While the use of the terms is associated with science fiction and usenet writers, there have been attempts from the 1930s to develop a less gendered vocabulary and syntax. Sie is said to be an acronym for '(s)he, (i)t, and h(e)', while hir combines 'his' and 'her'. Pronounciation varies, but the terms have not really caught on widely. Examples of usage are:

  • Sie closed the door. (She closed the door./ He closed the door./ They closed the door./ It closed the door.)
  • I asked hir a question. (I asked him a question./ I asked her a question./ I asked them a question./ I asked it a question.)
  • Sie drove hirself. (She drove herself./ He drove himself./ They drove themselves./ It drove itself.)

Sie and hir are often seen as derived from German usages, where Sie and ihr are gender-neutral and can stand in for plural and singular.


Alternative personal pronouns are difficult to propogate because historically in the English language the male pronoun is used as gender-neutral. In addition, since the 1980s the more widespread non-sexist usage of language involves the gender-neutral use of they, them, their, etc. Rather than being used exclusively to denote third person plurals, they and its inflected forms are used for all situations, regardless of traditional subject-verb agreement. Sie and hir are also perceived as 'feminine' rather than neutral due to their spelling and sound.