In my native language there are gender markers so depending on how a word ends, its gender becomes male, female or neuter. Since English has no gender markers, how are the pronouns of cities (such as Rome, which in my native language is masculine) or countries determined?

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    Aside from perhaps informally in a few uncommon situations, I've never actually heard of a city referred to with a gender-based pronoun. – Jason Bassford May 28 '18 at 3:58
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    Cities and countries don't have gender in English. Sometimes, however, the a city or country is referred to as "she", especially in poetic contexts. Ships also are sometimes referred to as "she", even if they're named after men, like the ore carrier Edmund Fitzgerald in the famous song (1975) by Gordon Lightfoot. – tautophile May 28 '18 at 4:06
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    To be explicit, the pronoun for a place is virtually always "it" outside of poetic contexts, even if locals would use a gendered pronoun in the place's native language (so I would say "I've never been to Rome, but I've heard it's beautiful" even if Rome has a gender in Italian). – 1006a May 28 '18 at 4:32
  • For once, English is relatively logical here. The neuter pronoun 'it' goes with etically genderless referents. Anthropomorphism messes this up; ships, steam locomotives etc are often affectionately 'she'. Thus one can hear "The Duke of Gloucester is in preservation. She is a fine engine." Thomas the Tank Engine is obligatorily 'he'. – Edwin Ashworth May 28 '18 at 9:50
  • What is your native language, out of interest. In Italian Roma is feminine (as are Torino and Milano, despite their o endings). – David May 28 '18 at 17:29

English has almost completely lost gender. Our pronouns are gendered, with

  • masculine (he, him, his, etc.)
  • feminine (she, her, hers, etc.)
  • neuter (it, its, etc.)
  • and unspecified (I, me, we, us, you, they, etc.)

However, nouns (including proper nouns, i.e. names given to individuals) are not gendered unless they have a natural (physiological) gender, e.g. lion (masculine or unspecified), lioness (feminine), Andrew (masculine), Andrea (feminine).

Cities, being inanimate objects, have no natural gender and are all neuter.

What do you think of Rome? It's a beautiful city!

Generally speaking, only people and animals get masculine or feminine pronouns, with animals being called it unless their gender is known. It's also considered rude to call a person it, as it implies that they're a thing, not a person.

The only exception is some machinery or vehicles which are occasionally given a feminine gender:

It's a beautiful ship! (normal usage)

She's a beautiful ship! (emphatic use, the speaker feels an emotional connection to the object)

Cities don't fit into this category, so you can't say:

What do you think of Rome? *She's a beautiful city!

Doing so will mark you as a foreign speaker to most people.

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    Andrea can also be masculine if he’s Italian. ;-) – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 29 '18 at 7:30

Cities are female. For example, New York is a Woman by Suzanne Vega.

Edited to add:

And then, there’s Psalm 48, talking about the City of God, “consider her ramparts; go through her palaces...”. That’s from the New American Standard Version, by the way.

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  • That’s just personification. The normal pronoun for “New York” is “it”. – herisson May 29 '18 at 1:53
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    See this contrasting quote for evidence that the gender of such personifications is fairly arbitrary: newscult.com/cities-personified-as-famous-people “Cities have sexes: London is a man, Paris a woman, and New York a well-adjusted transsexual.” —Angela Carter – herisson May 29 '18 at 1:55
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    I heard NY is a fruit (the Big Apple). – Bread May 29 '18 at 2:38
  • @sumelic Presumably Los Angeles identifies as non-binary ace intersex genderqueer polyamoric and prefers the pronoun ‘zem’. – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 29 '18 at 7:34
  • @JanusBahsJacquet: the article's author, Melissa Copelton, suggests that Los Angeles is best personified as Elizabeth Taylor, so there's another example of how it all depends on one's opinion. Interestingly, even though Copelton uses personification in that article, she still uses the pronoun "it" to refer to the cities. – herisson May 29 '18 at 7:39

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