“Hen” Is A Swedish Gender-Neutral Pronoun


Interesting Facts in Easy English

Pre-Listening Vocabulary

  • gender-neutral: does not identify a person as being male or female
  • personal pronoun: a word that is used to identify a specific person or thing
  • awkward: uncomfortable
  • propose: to make a recommendation
  • fad: something that is popular for a short time

“Hen” Is A Swedish Gender-Neutral Pronoun

A gender-neutral personal pronoun has been adopted in Sweden. The word “hen”, which is a cross between “han” (he) and “hon” (she), can be used to avoid the awkward construction of “he/she”. The pronoun “hen” can also be used to refer to people who do not themselves as male or female. The word “hen” was proposed in Sweden in the 60s, but has a lot of ground in the past few years. Since it is considered a fad, the word “hen” is now being added to Swedish dictionaries and . Though Sweden recently earned the title “most gender-neutral country in the world” (2010, World Economic Forum), many people in Sweden still consider “hen” a controversial word and refuse to accept it as part of their language.

Comprehension Questions

  1. What does the word “hen” mean in Swedish?
  2. Why are many reference books adding the word “hen” now instead of years ago?
  3. What related title did Sweden win in 2010?

Discussion Questions: Some preschool teachers in Sweden are using the word “hen” as much as possible. They hope that kids will learn to think in a gender-neutral way. Do you feel that language should be gender-neutral? Should English do away with words like “actress” or “police woman”?

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