Question from English4Today member: Michael Harney in Niger

What is gender?


Hi Michael!

My answer is about the grammatical use of ‘gender’  and not the broader use of it which has become a hot-topic of its own in the past decade.

In grammar it is to do with how we classify nouns into groups that are either masculine, feminine or neuter.

In some languages nouns are regarded as being either male or female.

For example, in French a table is female (la table) and a book is male (le livre). You can see that the gender is indicated here by the article la or le (the in English)

The articles (‘the’, ‘a’,’an’) in these languages often indicate the gender (whether it is female, male or neuter.)

In English we do not attach any grammatical gender to a noun – ‘the table’ and ‘the book’ are the same, ‘the man’ and ‘the woman’ show no difference in the use of the article to identify gender.

In terms of English grammar ‘gender’ is quite straightforward,

If you find a question on an official form that asks your ‘gender’ the traditional options here would have been ‘male’ or ‘female’ but today there are many additional options that may suit you better.

If you want to find out more about the non-grammatical use of ‘gender’  or the legal use of gender in different countries there are many sources on the Internet to help you with more information.

Here is a ‘gender options’ list compiled by ABC News:

  • Agender
  • Androgyne
  • Androgynous
  • Bigender
  • Cis
  • Cisgender
  • Cis Female
  • Cis Male
  • Cis Man
  • Cis Woman
  • Cisgender Female
  • Cisgender Male
  • Cisgender Man
  • Cisgender Woman
  • Female to Male
  • FTM
  • Gender Fluid
  • Gender Nonconforming
  • Gender Questioning
  • Gender Variant
  • Genderqueer
  • Intersex
  • Male to Female
  • MTF
  • Neither
  • Neutrois
  • Non-binary
  • Other
  • Pangender
  • Trans
  • Trans Female
  • Trans Male
  • Trans Man
  • Trans Person
  • Trans Woman
  • Transfeminine
  • Transgender
  • Transgender Female
  • Transgender Male
  • Transgender Man
  • Transgender Person
  • Transgender Woman
  • Transmasculine
  • Transsexual
  • Transsexual Female
  • Transsexual Male
  • Transsexual Man
  • Transsexual Person
  • Transsexual Woman
  • Two-Spirit

I’ll leave it up to you to find out what each gender type refers to!

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