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Shouldn't that second one be "xyr", not "xyrs"?
July 28, 2014 5:00 PM   Subscribe

Practice with Pronouns is a site that lets you practise subject, object, possessive, and reflexive forms of English third person pronouns. It comes with a few of the most common options, but you can also fill in whatever pronouns you like. Useful for both English learners and people wanting to practise using nonbinary pronouns.
As if it couldn’t get any more delightful, it often uses quotes from Welcome to Night Vale in the practice sentences, which is definitely far more entertaining than See Spot Run. The feedback sentences are also very cute.

(Hm, I’m pretty sure the second blank in that screenshot should have said “xyr”, in retrospect.)
via All Things Linguistic

Useful resources for participating in discussion of nonbinary identity and pronouns: Ohio U's Trans 101* : Primer and Vocabulary guide; GLAAD's Transgender Media and Education Program guide.

Pronouns, previously: Yo is a pronoun, yo.; Why is gender ever a thing?; Growing up without gendered pronouns
posted by Lexica (22 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
If you use "They" as the third person pronoun, the some of the verbs are still left conjugated as third person singular. Does anyone actually prefer/do this?
posted by azarbayejani at 6:59 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


If you use "They" as the third person pronoun, the some of the verbs are still left conjugated as third person singular. Does anyone actually prefer/do this?

If they gives it a moment's thought, then they most certainly does.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:17 PM on July 28 [5 favorites]


yep, it's not third-person singular, it's "they conjugation".
posted by vibratory manner of working at 8:23 PM on July 28


I'm curious; do any metafilters regularly use nonbinary pronouns in everyday conversation?
posted by el io at 10:04 PM on July 28


I tend to use "they" when referring to non-specific people (e.g. "If a user does not have their library card, you should register them before allowing entry"). But it might be due to an influence from Chinese. While written Chinese has gendered pronouns, they are all pronounced the same way, so 他, 她 and 它 all sound the same when spoken.
posted by Alnedra at 1:10 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


el io: I do! I have a few friends who prefer them, and just started asking people to use non-gendered pronouns for me as well. When they do, it feels awesome. I love the pronouns ve/ver/vis, popularised by Greg Egan in Diaspora, but most of us just ask people to use they/them/their for us, as it's easiest for English speakers. (Damn, I had a great link about this, but can't find it on my phone!)

It does end up with speaking such sentences as, "Alex has brought the cheese but they've forgotten the bread," which flow quite easily in conversation but might be more awkward in writing.
posted by daisyk at 1:21 AM on July 29 [2 favorites]


(Sorry to jump into the conversation before RTFA -- I'll do that now.)
posted by daisyk at 1:22 AM on July 29


I'm curious; do any metafilters regularly use nonbinary pronouns in everyday conversation?

Absolutely. It's pretty much what happens when you a) have friends or acquaintances who are non-binary and b) aren't an asshole.
posted by Dysk at 1:32 AM on July 29 [8 favorites]


I found the link: they.me.uk. It's a handy page with rebuttals to some common objections people have to they as a non-gendered singular pronoun.
posted by daisyk at 2:15 AM on July 29


Oh, this is so great. Good find, Lexica.
posted by pseudonymph at 4:07 AM on July 29


Yeah, what Dysk said.

Also: in my experience, talking about someone using nonbinary pronouns really does get easier with practice, and really does shift the way you perceive their gender in small but interesting ways.

I guess it also helps to think of it as a fun metalinguistic puzzle and/or brain hack ("gee, I wonder, can I deliberately change my own internalized grammar of English? — and what else will change if I do?") and not as an obnoxious imposition ("fuuuuuuck, I've gotta learn a different set of grammar rules now?"). I mean, for my nonbinary friends who deeply dislike being referred to with binary pronouns, it's not just a fun little mind game. But for me, rising to the challenge posed by my friends' preferred pronouns gets easier when I'm willing to take a curious and playful approach to the whole thing.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:07 AM on July 29 [4 favorites]


I tend to use "they" when referring to non-specific people (e.g. "If a user does not have their library card, you should register them before allowing entry"). But it might be due to an influence from Chinese.

Not just Chinese influence — this is a thing that most English-speakers do spontaneously. (And those who don't, it's probably because they were taught a prescriptive rule against it in school and trained themselves to follow it.)

What's difficult for most English-speakers at first is using singular "they" with a specific, well known referent (e.g. "I like Alex. They have been my best friend for a long time"). That's not something that feels natural at first for most of us. But it's definitely learnable, and worth learning if there are people in your life who care about it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:13 AM on July 29 [3 favorites]


"I like Alex. They have been my best friend for a long time"). That's not something that feels natural at first for most of us. But it's definitely learnable, and worth learning if there are people in your life who care about it.

I share your sensitivity to this issue, but after sixty years of sensitivity to plural/singular differentiation in my speech, I'm not sure I could learn to speak this way. I have no problem with "Will everyone please pick up their trash?", as opposed to the correct but rarely used "Will everyone pick up his or her trash?", but this one…no, I can't or won't.
posted by kozad at 7:51 AM on July 29


A big thing I don't get about these pronouns: wouldn't the person in question generally not be around when the pronouns are used? For example, if I tell you my pronouns are "xe/xir" (let's say equivalent to "she/her"), how would I hear those in conversation unless the people I'm around are rude and talking about me in the third-person right in front of me? Wouldn't they just use "you"?
posted by sfkiddo at 9:26 AM on July 29


A big thing I don't get about these pronouns: wouldn't the person in question generally not be around when the pronouns are used?

In practice it seems fairly common to see third-person references to yourself in text, and there are situations where referring to someone who is present in third person is not rude or awkward. For example "Basil and I cleaned out zir car before we came over, want to just ride with us?"

But that aside, you don't misgender people behind their backs just because you think they can't hear you, right?
posted by lisp witch at 9:50 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


But that aside, you don't misgender people behind their backs just because you think they can't hear you, right?

That was unnecessary. I'm seriously trying to figure out the sequence of events here on how this would work: it isn't a scenario in which someone who has specific pronouns corrects me at the time (like I called them by the wrong name) and I say, oh ok, sorry about that and we move on. But if it's easier for you to just imply that I'm insensitive/prejudiced, so be it.
posted by sfkiddo at 10:01 AM on July 29


Yup, have been using non-gendered (mostly they/their) pronouns for non-specific or plural subjects, for 30 years in both speech and writing. I borrowed "Dear gentlefolk" in the 1970s as a formal salutation from my kiwi cousin, chair of a college English department. She also assured me they/their was proper English usage.
posted by Dreidl at 10:19 AM on July 29


"Dear gentlefolk" is good, I must remember that one. I also like "Ladies, gentlemen, distinguished guests."
posted by daisyk at 11:29 AM on July 29


el io: I also use nonbinary pronouns regularly for some of my friends. And myself, and for nonspecific or plural subjects.

I notice that third person pronouns get used quite a bit in conversation when the subject is present! Stuff like "That's hers", or "He's giving me a ride home after this" or "I don't know what X thinks, why not go ask them?"

Agree with nebulawindphone: It's hard to get used to "they" indicating a single and specified referent. I don't know why people get so pressed about using the singular "they", though.
posted by beefetish at 12:31 PM on July 29


sfkiddo: "A big thing I don't get about these pronouns: wouldn't the person in question generally not be around when the pronouns are used?"

Well, as lisp witch and beefetish said, there are definitely times when people talk about you in the third person, in your hearing, without it being rude. (Random example from the other day: when I was taking a nap, I heard my friends look in through the door and say, "Should we wake them up? They said they wanted to sleep till five.") I think if you start to listen for it, you'll see what I mean.

The other thing is that usually you don't have to Correct All the Pronouns by yourself. If one of my friends slips up when discussing a third party who's recently asked for different pronouns, I'll correct them (without making a huge deal of it), and vice versa. Although the third party may not be there, referring to them in the right way is good practice for doing it when you are around them, and it signals to yourself and others that you take them seriously. :)
posted by daisyk at 12:40 PM on July 29 [4 favorites]


Practice with Pronouns is informative and fun to explore. Thanks for posting this!
posted by wiskunde at 8:00 PM on July 29


This is great! I have several friends who use pronouns that I did not learn to use back in childhood and while I am very much committed to honouring people's preferences, it's amazing how hard I find it to make things roll off my tongue sometimes. Ultimately, it's like learning a new language where I stumble once in a while and where I find myself hesitating before finishing a sentence. I am really lucky to have friends who have provided me with some education about what they want - and who are also willing to correct me (gently) when I mess it up. I'm sharing that site widely and using it to practice, too.
posted by VioletU at 7:08 AM on August 1


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