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I noticed that my sougou pinyin program doesn't even have 她们的 in the choices, how strict is this gender difference applied in writing, Maybe some specific questions.

If I refer to a group of people of both genders. would "their"be 他们的, does the male form take precedence here?

If I refer to a group of females, is 他们的 acceptable or does it have to be 她们的 ?

If I refer to a group of animals, should it always be 它们的 ?

Thank you.

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4 Answers 4

他 is used for males and someone(s) whose gender is either unknown or unimportant.

So for a group of both females and males, normally 他们 should be used. For a group of people of females, 他们 could be used where there is no implication on the genders of the people in question. For example, if you are talking about a group of people, who are not necessarily all females, but happen to be all females and this fact is not important, you can use 他们. If the group in question is obviously all females, you'd better use 她们, e.g. Referring to four queens as 他们 is not recommended.

她 is used for females.

This is only applicable when referring to single female or a group of females.

Both 他 and 她 are used for people.

For things, use 它 no matter it's a concrete object (a pen, a dog) or abstract object (a country, an ideology).

If you use 它 referring to people, there would be an implication that the person being referred to is not considered human. This normally is an insult in Chinese culture and the person may be offended.

Unlike English, baby is considered people, so don't use 它 for baby.

Anthropomorphically, 她/他 can be used to refer things other than people, commonly pets and animals.

你 vs. 妳

If you are writing in Traditional Chinese, there would also be a gender distinction in the second person pronouns as 你 vs. 妳

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Usage and variants of "你" are not totally the same for tradition Chinese in Hongkong/Macau/Taiwan/Singapore. –  Michael Yin May 27 at 13:04
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If I refer to a group of people of both genders. would "their"be 他们的, does the male form take precedence here?

Yup.

If I refer to a group of females, is 他们的 acceptable or does it have to be 她们的 ?

Both are acceptable but if you really wanted to be specific then 她们的 would be better.

If I refer to a group of animals, should it always be 它们的 ?

Maybe 牠 would be more appropriate.

there are a few different 'ta's depending on what you want to say -- even one for 'gods' or deities

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Not but (I'm talking about modern Chinese here). However, 牠 looks archaic, so I suggest 它. While there's for gods ... seen in the Chinese version of Bible. –  Stan May 24 at 16:58
    
@Stan oops! 打错了!my bad. –  user3306356 May 25 at 9:01
    
For animals, "它们的" is appropriate, unless you want to express people-like intimacy (拟人). –  Michael Yin May 27 at 12:42
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Very strict! Since there is no conjugation for verbs in Chinese, to use proper pronoun gender is very important.

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In my experiences, the pronoun gender is strict when it comes to singular forms. For instance, 他 and 她 are usually strictly distinguished between (although they sound the same).

But when it comes to plural forms, it is not that strict. The difference between 他們 and 她們 is not that important, and it is not necessarily to take into account the relative majority of either gender.

Mind you, 他 and 她 (he & she) are not distinguished between in traditional Chinese, but 你 and 妳 the other way around.

Notably, when writing in traditional Chinese, other ta-pronouns are also strictly distinguished between, such as 他 (he), 她 (she), 它(it), 牠 (refer to animals), 祂 (refer to god).

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