In Modern English, he is a singular, masculine, third-person pronoun.
In Standard Modern English, he has four shapes representing five distinct word forms:
Further information: Old English pronouns, Proto-Germanic pronouns, and Proto-Indo-European pronouns
Old English had a single third-person pronoun — from the Proto-Germanic demonstrative base *khi-, from PIE *ko- "this" — which had a plural and three genders in the singular. The modern pronoun it developed out of the neuter singular, starting to appear without the h in the 12th century. Her developed out of the feminine singular dative and genitive forms, while the other feminine forms and the plural were replaced with other words. The older pronoun had the following forms:
|Dative||him||him||hire||him / heom|
|Genitive||his||his||hire||hira / heora|
In the 12th century, it started to separate and appear without an h. Around the same time, one case was lost, and distinct pronouns started to develop. The -self forms developed in early Middle English, with hine self becoming himself. By the 15th century, the Middle English forms of he had solidified into those we use today.: 120
Main article: Gender neutrality in English
He had three genders in Old English, but in Middle English, the neuter and feminine genders split off. Today, he is the only masculine pronoun in English. In the 18th century, it was suggested as a gender-neutral pronoun, and was thereafter often prescribed in manuals of style and school textbooks until around the 1960s. In 2019 the Meriam-Webster dictionary added the singular they after seeing a spike in search interest.
He can appear as a subject, object, determiner or predicative complement. The reflexive form also appears as an adjunct. He occasionally appears as a modifier in a noun phrase.
Pronouns rarely take dependents, but it is possible for he to have many of the same kind of dependents as other noun phrases.
He's referents are generally limited to individual male persons, excluding the speaker and the addressee. He is always definite and usually specific.
The pronoun he can be used to refer to an unspecified person, as in If you see someone in trouble, help him. (See Gender above). This can seem very unnatural, even ungrammatical, as in these examples:
The dominant epicene pronoun in modern written British English is 'they'. Many style guides now reject the generic 'he'.
When speaking of God, Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit, some Christians use the capitalised forms "He", "His" and "Him" in writing, and in some translations of the Bible.[a]
According to the OED, the following pronunciations are used:
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