It (pronoun)

It is a third-person, singular neuter pronoun (nominative (subjective) case and oblique (objective) case) in Modern English.

Personal pronouns in standard Modern English
Person (gender) Subject Object Dependent possessive (determiner) Independent possessive Reflexive
First I me my mine myself
Second you your yours yourself
Third Masculine he him his himself
Feminine she her hers herself
Neuter it its itself
Epicene they them their theirs themself
First we us our ours ourselves
Second you your yours yourselves
Third they them their theirs themselves


The word and term it can be used for either a subject or an object in a sentence and can describe any physical or psychological subject or object. The genitive form its has been used to refer to human babies and animals, although with the passage of time this usage has come to be considered too impersonal in the case of babies,[citation needed] as it may be thought to demean a conscious being to the status of a mere object. This use of it is also criticized when used as a rhetorical device to dehumanize a speaker's enemies, implying that they were little more than animals or objects.[citation needed] The word remains in common use however, and its use increases with the degree to which the speaker views an object of speech as impersonal. For example, a cat or dog is often referred to as it, especially if the dog is not known by the speaker, or if the dog's gender is unknown. However, a person may also say it when referring to his or her own pet.[citation needed] The it pronoun may also be used for a genderqueer person who uses "it/its" pronouns as their preferred gender pronouns.

It is often used for idiomatic phrases such as "Is it a boy or a girl?" Once the gender of a child has been established, the speaker or writer generally switches to gender-specific pronouns.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge proposed using it in a wider sense in all the situations where a gender-neutral pronoun might be desired:

QUÆRE—whether we may not, nay ought not, to use a neutral pronoun, relative or representative, to the word "Person," where it hath been used in the sense of homo, mensch,[a] or noun of the common gender, in order to avoid particularising man or woman, or in order to express either sex indifferently? If this be incorrect in syntax, the whole use of the word Person is lost in a number of instances, or only retained by some stiff and strange position of the words, as—"not letting the person be aware wherein offense has been given"—instead of—"wherein he or she has offended." In my [judgment] both the specific intention and general etymon of "Person" in such sentences fully authorise the use of it and which instead of he, she, him, her, who, whom.[1]

  1. ^ Homo and Mensch are Latin and German words respectively which mean 'man' in a general sex-neutral sense, as opposed to "vir" and "Mann", which mean 'man' in the specifically masculine sense.

The children's author E. Nesbit consistently wrote in this manner, often of mixed groups of children: "Everyone got its legs kicked or its feet trodden on in the scramble to get out of the carriage."[2]

In earlier Middle English, arising from Old English, the pronoun was hit (similar to Dutch het and West Frisian hit with the same meaning), with the unaspirated it being an unaccented form. The genitive was his, with the new form its only arising by analogy in later Middle English.

It is used for a thing previously mentioned or easily identified.

The pronoun it also serves as a placeholder subject in sentences with no identifiable actor, such as "It rained last night", "It boils down to what you're interested in", or the impersonal "It was a dark and stormy night".

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Anima Poetæ: From the Unpublished Note-Books of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, edited by Ernest Hartley Coleridge (1895), p. 190.
  2. ^ Five Children and It, p. 1.

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