1. Her (or His) Excellency
2. high explosive
3. His Eminence
he 1 (hē)
1. Used to refer to the male person or animal previously mentioned or implied.
2. Usage Problem
a. Used to refer to a person whose gender is unspecified or unknown: Someone left his umbrella in the lobby.
b. Anyone: "He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence" (William Blake).
A male person or animal. Sometimes used in combination: Is the cat a he? We saw a he-goat cross the road.
[Middle English, from Old English hē; see ko- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Historically, the pronouns he, him,
have been used as generic or gender-neutral singular pronouns, as in A novelist should write about what he knows best
and No one seems to take any pride in his work anymore.
Since the early 1900s, however, this usage has been criticized for being sexist in its assumption that the male is representative of everyone. As long ago as 1987, a majority of the Usage Panel indicated that they preferred to avoid the generic use of he.
Certainly the avoidance of this usage has become common at all levels of formality. Typical strategies for doing so include using the plural (that is, avoiding the singular entirely), so they
is used instead of he.
This is probably the easiest solution. (The matter of using they
to refer to singular antecedents is addressed in the usage note at the entry for they
in this dictionary.) Writers can also employ compound and coordinate forms such as he/she
or he or she,
though these constructions can be cumbersome in sustained use. Some writers, especially in academic contexts, use she
in alteration with he
to balance the genders, or they use she
exclusively, in what might be seen as a pointed overturning of tradition. The writer who chooses to use generic he
and its inflected forms in the face of the strong trend away from that usage may be viewed as deliberately calling attention to traditional gender roles or may simply appear to be insensitive. · In certain sentences, the generic pronoun can simply be dropped or changed to an article with no change in meaning. The sentence A writer who draws on personal experience for material should not be surprised if reviewers seize on that fact
is complete as it stands and requires no pronoun before the word material.
The sentence Every student handed in his assignment
is just as clear when written Every student handed in the assignment.
See Usage Notes at each
he 2 (hā)
The fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. See Table at alphabet
[Hebrew hē, of Phoenician origin.]
he (hiː; unstressed iː)
1. refers to a male person or animal: he looks interesting; he's a fine stallion.
2. refers to an indefinite antecedent such as one, whoever, or anybody: everybody can do as he likes in this country.
3. refers to a person or animal of unknown or unspecified sex: a member of the party may vote as he sees fit.
a. a male person or animal
b. (in combination): he-goat.
(Games, other than specified)
a children's game in which one player chases the others in an attempt to touch one of them, who then becomes the chaser. Compare tag2
the person chasing. Compare it17
[Old English hē; related to Old Saxon hie, Old High German her he, Old Slavonic sĭ this, Latin cis on this side]
he (heɪ; Hebrew he)
(Letters of the Alphabet (Foreign)) the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet (ה), transliterated as h
he (hiː; heɪ)
an expression of amusement or derision. Also: he-he! or hee-hee!
the chemical symbol for
(Elements & Compounds) helium
1. high explosive
2. (Roman Catholic Church) His Eminence
3. His (or Her) Excellency
he1 (hi; unstressed i)
pron. nom. he, poss. his, obj. him; pron.
1. the male person or animal being discussed or last mentioned; that male.
2. anyone (without reference to sex); that person: He who hesitates is lost. n.
3. any male person or animal; a man: hes and shes. adj.
4. male (usu. used in combination): a he-goat.
[before 900; Middle English, Old English hē
(masculine nominative singular); c. Dutch hij,
Old Saxon hē,
Old High German her
he; see his
Traditionally, the pronouns he, his,
have been used generically to refer to indefinite singular pronouns like anyone, everyone,
(Everyone who agrees should raise his hand
) and to singular nouns that do not indicate sex: Every writer hopes he will produce a bestseller.
This generic use is often criticized as sexist, although many speakers and writers continue the practice. Various approaches have been developed to avoid generic he
. One is to use plural forms entirely: Those who agree should raise their hands. All writers hope they will produce bestsellers.
Another is to use the masculine and feminine singular pronouns together: he or she
, she or he
. A common practice in speech is to use forms of they
to refer to such antecedents: If anyone calls, tell them I'm not home.
Forms blending the feminine and masculine pronouns, as s/he,
have not been widely adopted. See also they
or heh (heɪ)
n., pl. hes or hehs.
1. the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
2. any of the sounds represented by this letter.
[< Hebrew hē']
1. high explosive.
2. His Eminence.
3. His Excellency; Her Excellency.
He is the subject of a verb. You use he to refer to a man, boy, or male animal that has already been mentioned, or whose identity is known.
He had a nervous habit of biting his nails.
Bill had flown back from New York and he and his wife took me out to dinner.
When the subject of a sentence is followed by a relative clause, you do not use he in front of the main verb. For example, you do not say 'The man who is going to buy my car, he lives in Norwich'. You say 'The man who is going to buy my car lives in Norwich'.
The man who came into the room was small and slender.
Professor Marvin, who was always early, was there already.
he she they
He, him, his, and himself are sometimes used to refer back to an indefinite pronoun or to a word such as person, child, or student.
If anybody complained about this, he was told that things would soon get back to normal.
It won't hurt a child to have his meals at a different time.
Many people object to this use because it suggests that the person referred to is male.
2. 'he or she'
You can sometimes use he or she, him or her, his or her, or himself or herself.
A parent may feel that he or she has nothing to give a child.
Anyone can call himself or herself a psychologist, even if untrained and unqualified.
Many people avoid these expressions because they think they sound clumsy and unnatural, especially when more than one of them is used in the same sentence.
In writing, some people use s/he to mean he or she.
Most people use they, them, and their.
Everyone thinks they know what the problems of living with a teenager are.
Often when we touch someone we are demonstrating our love for them.
Don't hope to change anyone or their attitudes.
This use used to be considered incorrect, but it is now the most common form in both spoken and written English, and is used in formal and informal writing.
It is often possible to avoid all the above uses. You can sometimes do this by using plurals. For example, instead of saying 'Every student has his own room', you can say 'All the students have their own rooms'. Instead of saying 'Anyone who goes inside must take off his shoes', you can say 'People who go inside must take off their shoes'.