|Look up she, her, hers, or herself in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
In Modern English, she is a singular, feminine, third-person pronoun.
In Standard Modern English, she has four shapes representing five distinct word forms:
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. In early Middle English, one case was lost, and distinct pronouns started to develop. The modern pronoun it developed out of the neuter, singular in the 12th century. Her developed out of the feminine singular dative and genitive forms. The older pronoun had the following forms:
|Dative||him||him||hire||him / heom|
|Genitive||his||his||hire||hira / heora|
The evolution of she is disputed.: 118 Some sources claim it evolved "from Old English seo, sio (accusative sie), fem. of demonstrative pronoun (masc. se) 'the,' from PIE root *so- 'this, that'" (see the). "In Middle English, the Old English system collapses, due to the gradual loss of þe and the replacement of the paradigm se, seo, þæt by indeclinable that.": 296
A more likely account is what is sometimes called the ' Shetland Theory', since it assumes a development parallel to that of Shetland < OScand. Hjaltland, Shapinsay < Hjalpandisey, etc. The starting point is the morphologically and chronologically preferable hēo. Once again we have syllabicity shift and vowel reduction, giving [heo̯] > [he̯o] > [hjoː]. Then [hj-] > [ç-], and [ç-] > [ʃ-], giving final [ʃoː].: 118
Obviously, this doesn't lead to the modern form she /ʃiː/. "So any solution that gets [ʃ] from /eo/ also needs to 'correct' the resultant /oː/ (outside the north) to /eː/. This means an analogical transfer of (probably) the /eː/ of he.": 118 None of this is entirely plausible.
The -self forms developed in early Middle English, with hire self becoming herself. By the 15th century, the Middle English forms of she had solidified into those we use today.: 120
He had three genders in Old English, but in Middle English, the neuter and feminine genders split off. Today, she is the only feminine pronoun in English. It is occasionally used as a gender neutral, third-person, singular pronoun (see also singular they).: 492
She can appear as a subject, object, determiner or predicative complement. The reflexive form also appears as an adjunct. She occasionally appears as a modifier in a noun phrase.
Pronouns rarely take dependents, but it is possible for she to have many of the same kind of dependents as other noun phrases.
She's referents are generally limited to individual, female persons, excluding the speaker and the addressee. She is always definite and usually specific.
The pronoun she can also be used to refer to an unspecified person, as in If you see someone in trouble, help her. (See Gender above). This can seem very unnatural, even ungrammatical, as in examples like this:
She can be used for countries as political entities, but not as geographical entities.: 487
She can also be used for ships and other inanimate objects of significance to the owner.
Many English style guides discourage the use of she for countries or inanimate objects, and such usage may be considered dated or sexist.
"She" may refer to a particular goddess or to a monotheistic God when regarded as female. In this case it may be written "She" with reverential capitalization.
According to the OED, the following pronunciations are used:
In 1999, she was selected as the word of the millennium by the American Dialect Society.
When a pronoun is used to refer to a vessel, the neuter it or its (rather than she or her) is preferred.
Use it and its in reference to countries, ships and boats. In such contexts, she, her and hers evoke dated stereotypes of the roles of women and men.