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What are pronouns and why are they important? 

Pronouns are words that take the place of a noun in a sentence such as he/him/his, she/her/hers, they/them/theirs, ze/zir/zirs, and many more. In many languages pronouns often have gendered implications such as in English where we often associate she/her pronouns with women or femininity, and he/him with men or masculinity.

Our assumptions about people's pronouns are not always correct; it’s impossible to know someone’s pronouns based on their appearance. Using the wrong pronouns for someone can be extremely harmful. It can signify that you are disregarding their gender and experiences and can be invalidating. Using the correct pronouns for someone is a matter of showing respect and may be a source of gender euphoria, particularly among trans and non binary people.

How do I know someone’s pronouns? 

The only way to know someone’s pronouns is if they tell you themselves! You can listen to see if someone includes pronouns in their introduction or perhaps check an email signature, or you can simply ask. It can be helpful to share your pronouns before asking for someone else's, for example; “My name is (insert name) and my pronouns are (insert pronouns). What about you?"

Share your pronouns

A simple thing anyone can do to help normalize not assuming pronouns is to share your own! There are many ways to do this, including but not limited to saying them when you introduce yourself, adding them to your email signature, Zoom or Google Meets name and social media bios.

Here is an example of a student email signature with their pronouns included:

Mila Ruiz 
Pronouns: They/Them/Theirs 
1st year Biological Science Student- Faculty of Science

We acknowledge the lands and people of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation which is covered under the Williams Treaties. We are situated on the Traditional Territory of the Mississaugas, a branch of the greater Anishinaabeg Nation which includes Algonquin, Ojibway, Odawa and Pottawatomi.

See more information about land acknowledgements

What to do when you make a mistake

Unlearning assumptions about pronouns and gender takes time and effort. It’s okay to make mistakes, but it’s important to know how to react when you do catch yourself using the wrong pronoun for someone (also known as misgendering). 

The best thing you can do when you mistakenly use the wrong pronoun is to quickly correct yourself, apologize, and continue the conversation. For example, “Sorry, I mean they said…”. 

Try to avoid over apologizing. This can put the person who was misgendered in an uncomfortable position as it may bring unwanted attention and shifts the conversation so they are having to comfort you. 

Trying your best to never assume what pronouns someone uses and simply asking instead can help minimize mistakes. 


Many more pronouns exist beyond the common she/her, he/him, and they/them. These pronouns are frequently referred to as neopronouns. Similar to they/them, neopronouns allow for people to be referred to without association with the gender binary. There is a wide variety of neopronouns that exist, but some common ones are Fae/Faer/Faer, Xe/Xem/Xyr and Ze/Zir/Zir.

Similar to how they/them and neopronouns can be used to refer to people without binary gender association, some people may use the honourific Mx. (pronounced “Mix”) in place of Mrs., Ms., Mr., and so on.

Pronouns and gender 

Please note that it’s possible for anyone to use any pronouns regardless of gender. She/her are not exclusive to women, they/them and neopronouns are not exclusive to non-binary people, etc. While certain pronouns are more common among certain identities, they aren’t necessary to hold those identities. While pronouns are an aspect of gender expression, they do not equate to someone's gender.

Pronoun examples 

The following table can help you familiarize yourself with some pronouns and how to use them in your everyday life! 
Note: pronunciation and conjugation of many neopronouns vary depending on who is using them. If you’re unsure about how to pronounce a pronoun or which conjugation to use it’s best to ask the person being referred to.

Pronouns and Pronunciation

Sentence Examples and Phonetic Spelling








Fae laughed

I called faer

I borrowed faer textbook

That is faers

Faer likes faerself








He laughed

I called him 

I borrowed his textbook

That is his 

 He likes himself 








She laughed 

I called her 

I borrowed her textbook

That is hers 

 She likes herself








They laughed

I called them

I borrowed their textbook

That is theirs

 They like themselves








Xe laughed

I called xem 

I borrowed xyr textbook

That is xyrs

 Xe likes xemself








Ze laughed

I called zir

I borrowed zir textbook

That is zirs

 Ze likes zerself

If you want to learn more about pronouns and strategies to help you learn and remember them email

Links and references: How to use neopronouns Pronouns guide

LGBTQIA+ Wikia: Neopronouns Neopronouns Gender specific and gender neutral pronouns

Thriving on Campus: LGBTQ2S Inclusion of Campuses Webinar

UC Davis: Pronouns