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The Noun: Gender

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We see many things around us. Some of them are living while some others are non-living. All living things are either of male or female sex. Whereas non-living things cannot be put under any such category, they are put under some different categories.

Now study the following sentences:

1. The boy is flying a kite.
2. The girl is singing a song.
3. The teacher is teaching in the class.
4. The table is made of wood.

In sentence 1, the boy denotes a male, in sentence 2, the girl denotes a female, in sentence 3, the teacher can be either a male or a female while in sentence 4, the table is a non-living thing which is neither a male nor a female.
Thus we see that we can broadly divide persons, animals or things into four main categories. These are genders.


The word which tells us whether a person, animal or thing falls under a male, female or any other category, is called its Gender.

Genders are of four types. They are:
1. Masculine Gender
2. Feminine Gender
3. Common Gender
4. Neuter Gender

Remember: All nouns belong to any of these four categories.

Masculine Gender: A noun that denotes a male member of a species is said to be of the Masculine Gender (male).

Examples: cock, man, dog, poet, tiger, boy etc.

Feminine Gender: A noun that denotes a female member of a species is said to be of the Feminine Gender (female).

Examples: hen, woman, bitch, poetess, tigress, girl etc.

Common Gender: A noun that denotes either a male or a female is said to be of the Common Gender.

Examples: friend, cousin, student, doctor, porter, child, patient, parent baby etc.

Neuter Gender: A noun that denotes neither a male nor a female is said to be of the Neuter Gender. Neuter Genders are lifeless objects.

Examples: table, chair, tree, book, room, pen, house, forest, bridge, pencil, bus etc.

1. Infants (young children) and lower animals are often referred to as of the neuter gender.
2. In English, all living beings, apart from human beings, are counted as non-living and therefore, fall under Neuter Gender.
3. Pronoun ‘it' is used for Neuter Gender.

Examples: We have a dog. It barks at strangers.
The baby seems to be hungry. It's crying for milk.

Formation of Feminine Gender

Generally, there are mainly three ways for changing Masculine Gender into Feminine Gender. They are as follows:

(1) By adding suffix like—ess, -ine, -a etc.

Masculine Feminine Masculine Feminine

Actor Actress - Heir Heiress
Baron Baroness - Instructor Instructress
Count Countess - Lion Lioness
Duke Duchess - Master Mistress
Enchanter Enchantress - Mayor Mayoress
Emperor Empress - Poet Poetess
Hunter Huntress - Prince Princess
God Goddess - Shepherd Shepherdess
Giant Giantess - Sultan Sultana
Hero Heroine - Tiger Tigress
Host Hostess - Waiter Waitress

Note: In some cases, the vowel at the end is dropped before changing into feminine.

(2) By using an entirely different word as:

Brother Sister - King Queen
Boy Girl - Lad Lass
Bull Cow - Monk Nun
Cock Hen - Man Woman
Drake Duck - Nephew Niece
Dog Bitch - Son Daughter
Father Mother - Sir Madam
Gentleman Lady - Uncle Aunt
Husband Wife - Widower Widow
Horse Mare - Wizard Witch

(3) By changing the word showing sex (male or female) as:

Grandfather Grandmother - Milkman Milkmaid
He-goat She-goat - Step-son Step-daughter
Jack-ass Jenny-ass - Salesman Salesgirl
Landlord Landlady - Step-father Step-mother
Milkman Milkmaid - Washerman Washerwoman

Sample Usage

AS given under each heading.

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