Gender

 

Objective

To explore the meaning of gender in nouns.

Nouns which refer to a person may refer to a man or to a male person like father or to a woman or to a female person like mother. There is a difference in gender.

Write down the noun of the opposite gender:

  • boy
  • grandad
  • waiter
  • king
  • son
  • nephew
  • uncle
  • empress
  • bride
  • waitress
  • heroine
  • actress
  • princess

The examples prince - princess, actor - actress show that the form for the female person is formed by adding –ess to the word for the male person. There may be slight changes to the male form as in actor - actress. Here are a number of nouns denoting a male person. Form the name for the female person by adding –ess:

  • baron
  • giant
  • god
  • heir
  • host
  • mayor
  • peer

Other nouns like parent can refer to either gender. They can refer to a male as well as to a female. Such nouns are called common gender nouns. Nouns like door or window have no gender and are therefore neuter. Check the following nouns very carefully and then sort them into the appropriate group:

male
female
common
neuter
aunt
bridge
boy
brother
child
cook
cup
daughter
doctor
enemy
finger
friend
girl
guest
jacket
king
milk
nun
monk
son
student
servant
uncle
road

The sentences below include a common gender noun. Which word in each sentence which tells you that the person is a male or a female? Is there a sentence in which it is not possible to say whether the person is male or female?

  1. Mrs Brown is a teacher.
  2. Bill's uncle became a successful photographer.
  3. She brought a guest to the party
  4. His little brother had always wanted to be a writer.
  5. The artist had her first exhibition last year.
  6. The teacher was welcomed by her student.
  7. He is an assistant in a big shop.
  8. Their daughter was a doctor in South Africa.
  9. Heather has been their cook for eight years now.
  10. Mr Roberts has now become Mary's enemy number 1.

This lesson is adapted (with permission) from Words and Meanings: A Systematic Guide for the Teaching of English Vocabulary, by Gabriele Stein.

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