If you write 'they' (tāmen) in Chinese characters, you have to be specific about the gender: 他们 / 她们 / 它们 All of them mean 'they' but what do you use if you mean a group mixed with men and women?

  • 1
    "you have to be specific about the gender": this is not a question, it is an affirmation, and it is wrong, better edit the question: "is it specific?". Answer is that 他们 is not gender-specific by default, it can mean both "men and women", and "men". Same as in the French "ils" by the way.
    – gb.
    Oct 31, 2016 at 2:47

1 Answer 1


他们 - "they" (men / men and women )

她们 - "they" (women )

它们 - "they" (objects)

*The term "它们" is rarely used. Most of the time, people would use "这些" (these)+ object or "那些"(those)+ object when referring a group of objects.

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    "它们" is not that rarely used, when you address animals or pets (or any non-human being objects), definitely use "它们". "她" and "她们" are new concept only exist in contemporary Chinese after "May Fourth Movement" 1919, to have equal rights for women in literature.
    – jiansong
    Oct 27, 2016 at 11:12
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    I challenge you to pick up any novel, book or newspaper. You will see hundreds of 他们 before you come across one 它们- If there's any at all.
    – Tang Ho
    Oct 28, 2016 at 7:20
  • @TangHo: Isn't that because most novels and newspapers are more concerned with people than with animals? In China, if a story is about animals, do they "anthropomorhpize" like we do? In English, we may use "it" for animals when the main characters are people. But when the focus is one or more animals, we tend to make them more human-like and use "he" & "she."
    – 伟思礼
    Apr 11, 2017 at 15:36

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