If you are speaking, but want to emphasize that you would write 她 rather than 他 at a certain point, how do you do that?

I know ways to say the person you are talking about is a woman, as 倪阔乐 suggests. I wondered if there is a way to indicate that the word you are saying would be written 她 without just saying so.

A history article at http://www.harvard-yenching.org/cultural-history-of-the-Chinese-character-ta points out that the hundredth birthday of 她 is coming up.

At the time the character first entered use several other neologisms were coined to indicate women:

“女界(women’s world/women),” “女英雄(female hero),” 国民之母(mother of the citizen),” “女国民” (female citizen), and “英雌 (heroic female).”

But again, each of those comes out and says woman or mother explicitly.

  • Can you provide a context? (For example?)
    – PdotWang
    Feb 16, 2015 at 21:43
  • @PdotWang One example came to mind when someone on another question said a ship could be called 她. I believe it can also be called 它 or 他. I'm guessing there is basically no convention for distinguishing those in speech because it does not come up much. But I thought I'd ask Feb 17, 2015 at 1:27
  • The thing "a ship could be called 她" is learned from English, I think.
    – PdotWang
    Feb 17, 2015 at 3:28
  • I think I just get the point of this question. It is not like in English, we can say he and she, him and her. In Chinese, we say Ta1, no difference. So it sounds like it doesn't make much sense if you can only have it in writing. Right?
    – PdotWang
    Feb 18, 2015 at 19:49
  • @PdotWang Well, I am used to the sense of in Chinese. But yes that is the contrast I'm interested in. And I wondered if some speakers find ways to use the three Ta1 but indicate which they mean. Feb 18, 2015 at 19:57

2 Answers 2


By context. Originally there were no gender specific pronouns, but 他 was used for he, she and it.

Western languages influenced Chinese in this regard, although Chinese have earlier also had a rather complex system of honorific pronouns (like 朕).

A feminist discussion in the Western world of today concerns the default usage of "he" and related prnouns (and similar in other languages), which is said to "discriminate" women. But essentially, "he" is just the neutral pronoun, just like 他, whereas "she" and 她 are later linguistic extensions to denote sex or gender.

In essence, the Chinese have managed to describe gender/sexus by context since ancient times, without resorting to auxiliary pronouns.

In practice, you could say 她那个女人, or 美丽的她 and similar construtcs to emphasize sex.


Native speaker. agrees with 倪阔乐.

Speaking from experience, there is no common way to stress the gender in Mandarine without significantly change the style of speaking (e.g. nobody would use 伊人 or 红颜 in everyday conversation and those two words are not limited to females). That's why when my friends told me stories about another person I don't know, I would have to interrupt and ask the gender if that concerns me. Also not very formally, my friends and I would just say “女她” to quickly insert this piece of information into the conversation.

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