I'm trying to understand why there is a difference between the possessive determiner and pronoun for the female gender (her vs hers) but not for the male gender (his is used for both).

"This will be discussed with him and his parents will be informed" and "This will be discussed with her and her parents will be informed" both seem correct, but I'm wondering about the origin of the fact that 'male' gender does not have a distinction whereas the female gender appears to have one, e.g. we would not say "hers parents".

Is there an etymological reason for not using "hers parents", or just a stylistic one (e.g. "hers parents" sounds odd whereas "his parents" doesn't)?

closed as off-topic by jimm101, RegDwigнt May 29 at 14:27

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    Please ask at ell.stackexchange.com – GEdgar May 29 at 14:20
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    Do not ask on ell.stackexchange.com. They will close it, too. The difference between her and hers can be looked up in any dictionary of your choice. – RegDwigнt May 29 at 14:27
  • Thanks Reg, and I have, not really phrased the question well, I was wondering about the origin of the difference between the genders... – Edward Swann May 29 at 15:07
  • I don't think this is grist for ELL. It appears to be more of a linguistic history question for what it's worth. – franklin May 30 at 1:48

When used as an adjective in front of a noun (like "parents"), we use a possessive determiner ("his" or "her"). When used in place of the noun, we use a possessive pronoun ("his" or "hers") (Cambridge).

I talked to her (determiner) parents, but I did not talk to his (pronoun).
I talked to his (determiner) parents, but I did not talk to hers (pronoun).

  • Thanks, I was more wondering why the two (possessive determiner and pronoun) are different for the female gender and if there was an etymological reason to do with it, or just a stylistic one. e.g. "hers parents" sounds odd whereas "his parents" doesn't. – Edward Swann May 29 at 15:03
  • I could quote the entries on etymonline.com for "his," "her," and "hers," but you can probably just read them for yourself. As others have commented, if you still have questions after doing that bit of reading, it's proper on this site to post with clear questions and to state what research you have already done. – geekahedron May 29 at 16:55

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