Does it make sense to use the English language ungrammatically because the worldbuilding tells you to do so? I was thinking about writing a story in a world where gender pronouns don't exist and everyone is "male" since women and men are the same. Not biologically speaking, but the distinction is not made at all.

Does it make sense to refer any woman as a "he" in such a book, or is it nonsense to do so? I am thinking since the language the story is written in isn't part of the world, it doesn't make sense to do that, but I feel the dialogues however need to reflect that somehow. Is there any consensus on this, or is there a historical precedent for something like this?

  • 1
    Why is everyone a "he"? Why isn't everyone a "she"?
    – Divizna
    Jan 25 at 1:40
  • Calling a woman he isn't ungrammatical. Jan 25 at 7:08
  • Meta comment. If you have a message, call Western Union. barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/…
    – Boba Fit
    Jan 26 at 16:29
  • 1
    So to clarify this, this culture you are describing has binary male/female sexual reproduction but does not acknowledge any linguistical gender when refer to people?
    – hszmv
    Jan 27 at 12:31
  • Like Finnish. No gender markings at all.
    – jlawler
    Jan 28 at 20:10

1 Answer 1


Using "he" (or "she") as pronoun for all characters regardless of gender is not ungrammatical. Sentences will still be valid English if you do this.

It would be more of a problem if you did something like switching word order from subject-verb-object ("Sam ate oranges") to object-subject-verb ("Oranges Sam ate", like Star Wars' Yoda). In that case sentences are no longer grammatical, and it will make readers stumble to get through. It is tolerable if it's just one character that does this, but if it's used through the book I don't think most readers would stand for it.

It sounds like an interesting idea to use just one kind of pronoun. The comments raise a good question by asking why "he" and not "she", and you could also opt for "they" or newly invented alternatives. But I think "he" might be a good choice because it will take most people longer to figure out what's happening, and you can drive home the point more how ridiculous it is that "he" is the "default" pronoun.

  • Agree with most of the points here except the very last. I don't think regressing to using 'he' as the universal pronoun is going to have the effect you suggest because too many people still think it's normal and reasonable. Jan 25 at 12:04
  • @Mousentrude Correct, a generic "He" is traditionally used to refer to a generic person that could in actuality be a man or a woman.
    – hszmv
    Jan 27 at 12:26

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