As I know, animals can be called "he" or "she" (not only "it").

Also, if a person's gender is unknown, we may use "they" instead of "he" or "she".

Is it possible to use "they" when we talk about a specific animal and in what context?

  • Yes, it is. We have two dogs, both female. We refer to them individually as "she", and together as "they". Jul 9, 2020 at 18:02
  • Thank you, Isabel! I was very embarrassed when my interlocutor told me that this word is not used, especially when it comes to one animal. Jul 14, 2020 at 0:49
  • 2
    @IsabelArcher The question is about the singular "they", obviously it's "they" when the plural is used.
    – Barmar
    Jul 14, 2020 at 0:52
  • @user3027722 Can you give us the example where you tried to use singular "they" when referring to an animal? I personally cannot think of a use-case for that. If the animal is not part of your family or known to you personally, you can use "it". Otherwise, you can use "he" or "she" since you would know the animal's gender.
    – hb20007
    May 10, 2021 at 17:10

1 Answer 1


I don't see why you couldn't use "they" for an animal of unknown gender. However, it's less necessary than when referring to humans, because there's not as much compunction against using "it".

Some people like to consider pets to have almost the same status as family members, so they may prefer not to use "it" for these animals.

  • Barmar, thank you so much! Anyway, is this listed officially anywhere? Jul 14, 2020 at 0:51
  • 1
    What state are you asking about? Anyway, English doesn't have any official lists of what's idiomatic.
    – Barmar
    Jul 14, 2020 at 0:53

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