I read through this question and this and I'm still kind of wondering when I should use ĝi. Some people would prefer not to have it used about them, but I felt, when talking about my unborn baby, that "ĝi" was the most appropriate pronoun. When I talk about him or her in the future, I might use "ri" sometimes, but at this stage, the baby doesn't exist enough as an individual for me to feel like "ri" is the best one.

Any tips for when to use "ĝi" for humans?

I don’t think this is a duplicate of the question if there is a gender-neutral pronoun. There are alternatives, but this one is specifically about how and when to use this pronoun. This question asks when it is appropriate to use "ĝi" for humans and how.


3 Answers 3


I use ri whenever I conceive what I am talking about as a person, else I use ĝi. So for humans after their birth I now always use ri rather than ĝi, as I conceive them as persons. Similarly I prefer ri over ĝi when speaking of pet animals that have a personal relation to humans, and I prefer ri over ĝi when I conceive of an unborn human as a person rather than as an agglomeration of human cells. On the other hand, I prefer ĝi over ri when speaking about an insect that is annoying me or about a recently fertilized egg cell or embryo that I'm not yet conceiving as a person.


I think in practice most esperantists understand the pronoun ĝi the same way that English speakers understand the pronoun it. It is normal to use ĝi to refer to objects. Because of this dehumanising association many people find it uncomfortable to be referred to by that pronoun. However, for an unborn or very young baby, they are completely dependent on adults and often aren’t yet seen as individuals so dehumanising them doesn’t matter. The point at which to switch to another pronoun is probably very dependent on context. For example, even before the child is born it can make sense to use li, ŝi or ri if you are anthropomorphising it as if it were a conscious individual saying something like:

Mia bebo moviĝas kiam mi ludigas ĉi tiun muzikon, ri verŝajne estas ŝatanto de La Perdita Generacio.

Using ĝi to refer to adults still rests a minority among esperantists and risks causing miscomprehension or offence. I don’t believe this is just a hangover from English because even Zamenhof recommended against using it this way:

Kiam ni parolas pri homo, ne montrante la sekson, tiam estus regule uzi la pronomon «ĝi» (kiel ni faras ekzemple kun la vorto «infano»), kaj se vi tiel agos, vi estos gramatike tute prava. Sed ĉar la vorto «ĝi» (uzata speciale por «bestoj» aŭ «senvivaĵoj») enhavas en si ion malaltigan (kaj ankaŭ kontraŭkutiman) kaj por la ideo de «homo» ĝi estus iom malagrabla, tial mi konsilus al vi fari tiel, kiel oni faras en la aliaj lingvoj, kaj uzi por «homo» la pronomon «li».

The argument that it is an influence from ethnic languages is a strange one because in a sense everything in Esperanto is in some way influenced from some other language. There seems to be some idea that anything taken from English is automatically wrong and we have to copy another language instead. I don’t think this reasoning is rational.


From the Fundamenta Ekzercaro, §16:

La infano ploras, ĉar ĝi volas manĝi.

If you can (and traditionally do) call an already born child ĝi, the more you can do with an unborn child. That some people may feel uncomfortable with ĝi referring to humans is understandable, but still a habit taken over from their ethnic languages, which should not be the measure for Esperanto.

I would not switch to sub-norm pronoun ri after birth, but either rest with ĝi or, if I'd like to emphasize the sex, li, ŝi (or even ri in case of a non-binary child).

  • 4
    Just to note, the idea of using ri to explicitly mean a non-binary person is a Cyrilism and doesn’t reflect its original proposal nor its current usage. Most people understand it to mean that the gender is unspecified and could be one of the binary genders.
    – Neil Roberts
    Mar 18, 2019 at 9:35

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