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How to use gender correctly when writing and speaking English

Gender is an important aspect of English that we all need to learn. Understanding how to use gender in English is important to both the clarity and accuracy of our writing and speaking. While it may seem simple, a lot of students make this mistake. This partly because English does things slightly different than other languages.

Take a look at the example below:

X Mr Karparov visited the surgery with her daughter.
✓ Mr Karparov visited the surgery with his daughter.

Let’s take a closer look at gender and how English treats it in relation to nouns and possessive determiners.

How is gender used in English?

English is a bit different when it comes to the use of gender. Unlike speaking and writing in other languages, like French and German, English does not use grammatical gender (where all nouns are assigned gender).

Instead, English employs natural gender that tends to apply masculine and feminine gender. In other words, we use pronouns and possessive determiners (she, he, hers and his) to reflect gender.

What’s the most common mistake?

Sometimes, writers and speakers will use the incorrect gender of the patient’s relative, such as the example above. Other times, it’s the incorrect gender for the patient themselves:

Mrs Chu underwent a hysterectomy 10 days ago. His post-operative recovery has been unremarkable.

When you’re writing a healthcare letter in your role or during the Writing sub-test, you should check each gender pronoun (her/he) is correct. It is a very noticeable mistake and can be easily picked up in proofreading.

Not checking your work can lead to confusion for the reader. So always check your work and make sure your gender pronoun matches the gender of the patient or subject of your sentence.

If you would like to know more about gender or another aspect of English, take a look at our Preparation Portal today.