If I have a sentence:

There are many stories which have been told about a ghost that haunted this castle. Strangely, ... (the ghost) has never appeared in front of my face for 10 years.

I notice that when it comes to "spirit, dark force", many people use "it" instead of making it personalized by using "she/he" as the subject pronoun.

Should I use the subject pronoun "he/she" or "it" to refer to the ghost?

  • Nice question! :-) – Pitarou Feb 8 '12 at 12:08
  • "There are many stories have been told " needs correction, though. – Kris Feb 8 '12 at 13:06
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    "Do you use he/she or it when refer to animal?" is another one of these series of questions. The answer for all of them is it depends on context. – speedyGonzales Feb 8 '12 at 15:54
  • @Speedy: I don't see how "depends on context" makes it a stupid question. How does it depend on context? In what context would you use each pronoun? – Jay Feb 8 '12 at 16:36
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    @Jay If we are speaking about the ghost of the woman it will be she, if we are speaking about the mother of the Bambi it will be she and ect...If we have lack of information it will be it. – speedyGonzales Feb 8 '12 at 16:59

If there are any gender cues (e.g. man in The Headless Horseman) then you should certainly use he or she.

If you don't consider the ghost as being like a person, use it.

If you think of the ghost as being like a person but you don't know the gender, follow the rules for people of unknown gender: use he, he/she, they or the ghost.


Even with gender cues, it depends on what you are trying to portray. If you want to convey that the character [or narrator] sees the ghost as a non-human entity, or something too unreal, you should still say 'it'. This could imply that the character is not going along with the ruse, whereas using he/she implies strongly that the character is in agreement that the encounter with a 'ghost' is authentic.

  • Good point. An official report might say "the apparition moved to the tombstone, where it seemed to make a low sound before vanishing", but only a believer would say "the grey lady drifted to her grave, where she moaned and disappeared." – TimLymington Feb 10 '12 at 12:33

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