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Understanding Pronouns


What’s a pronoun?

A pronoun is a word that’s used in the place of a noun and we most often use them when referring to someone without using their name. Example: Joe walked with Sarah. He enjoyed joking with her. ‘He’ and ‘her’ are both pronouns.

People tend to associate pronouns with a specific gender identity such as ‘he/him/his’ referring to men and ‘she/her/hers’ referring to women.

Gender neutral pronouns such as they, ze, xe, and others exist and are often used by non-binary people who do not associate themselves with genders of man or woman. You can also use gender-neutral pronouns like ‘they/them/their’ when you don’t want to assume someone’s gender or don’t know someone’s pronouns (e.g. the lecturer left, but they forgot their bag).


Why does it matter?

People often assume someone’s gender based on their name or appearance by using particular pronouns to refer to them. These assumptions can be incorrect and can cause someone stress, discomfort, or anxiety.

When someone shares their pronouns, it tells you how they want to be referred to by others.

Not sure why that could upset someone? Think about your own pronoun, for example if you’re a ‘he’, imagine someone referred to you with ‘she’ all the time, over and over again even after you’ve corrected them.


Why are pronouns important to The Students’ Union and what can you do?

The Students’ Union is always working to be a more inclusive organisation where all our students feel welcome. We understand that pronouns matter and want to demonstrate solidarity with any students who have ever felt uncomfortable, isolated, or upset by people deliberately or unwittingly using the wrong pronouns for them. We urge everyone to be respectful when others clearly identify their pronouns.

What can you do to be an active ally?

  • Introduce yourself with your pronouns and ask others for theirs.
  • Start your meetings, events, or classes with a round where everyone states their name and pronouns
  • Change your name in online meetings to include your pronouns (e.g. on Zoom)
  • Include your pronouns in your email signature
  • If you make a mistake, apologise, correct yourself, and move on
  • Correct others who use the wrong pronouns for someone you know.
  • Wear a pronoun pin badge on your lanyard


Where can I find a pronoun pin badge?

Pronoun Pin Badges are available free of charge from The Students' Union reception on Frenchay and will be coming to Glenside and Bower soon. If you can't find one that has your pronouns please email studentreps@uwe.ac.uk or speak to our reception team letting us know what pronouns you would like on your badge.

Where can I find out more?