Hen: Swedish Gender-Neutral Pronoun

Understanding Hen: The Swedish Gender-Neutral Pronoun

In the world of language and linguistics, gender plays a significant role in how we communicate. However, traditional binary gender pronouns do not always represent everyone’s identity. This is where the Swedish gender-neutral pronoun, hen, comes into play. In this post, we will explore the origins, usage, and significance of hen in creating a more inclusive linguistic landscape.

What is Hen?

Hen is a gender-neutral pronoun in Swedish that is used to refer to a person without specifying their gender. It serves a similar purpose to “they” in English when used as a singular pronoun. Hen was introduced to address the limitations of gendered language and to provide a more inclusive alternative for those who do not identify as strictly male (han) or female (hon).

How to Use Hen in Sentences

Using hen is straightforward. It replaces the gender-specific pronouns when the gender of a person is unknown, irrelevant, or when referring to someone who prefers hen as their pronoun. Here are some examples to illustrate its usage:

  • Introducing someone: “Det här är Kim. Hen är läkare.” – “This is Kim. They are a doctor.”
  • Discussing in general: “Om någon är hungrig borde hen äta något.” – “If someone is hungry, they should eat something.”
  • Talking about preferences: “Hen vill inte specificera sitt kön.” – “They do not want to specify their gender.”

It’s important to ask individuals what pronouns they prefer, including whether they prefer hen over traditional ones.

The Cultural Significance of Hen

The introduction of hen has been a milestone in Swedish linguistics, breaking down the barriers of a binary gender system. It advocates for gender inclusivity and provides a way for non-binary or transgender individuals to express their identity without being confined to traditional gender roles.

Common Questions About Using Hen

Many people have questions about how to properly incorporate hen into their everyday language, especially those who are learning Swedish or are interested in gender-neutral language practices.

Is Hen Widely Accepted?

While initially met with some resistance, hen has become increasingly accepted in Swedish society and is used in official documents, children’s books, and daily conversation.

Can Hen Be Used for Everyone?

Technically, yes; however, it is best to use hen for individuals who prefer it or when the gender of the person being talked about is unknown or irrelevant.

How Has Hen Impacted the Swedish Language?

Hen has prompted greater sensitivity towards gender issues in Sweden and has paved the way for more gender-neutral language use across various social realms.

Embracing Gender-Neutral Language

As our understanding of gender evolves, so does our language. Embracing gender-neutral pronouns like hen can be empowering and validating for many people. By using hen, speakers can create a more inclusive and accepting environment that respects all gender identities.

Learning to integrate gender-neutral pronouns such as hen into your vocabulary can seem daunting at first, but with practice, it becomes second nature. The key is to listen to how others identify themselves and to respect their preferences.


Gender-neutral pronouns are an essential aspect of contemporary language, reflecting society’s growing recognition of diverse gender identities. The Swedish pronoun hen stands as a testament to inclusivity and progress in our global conversation about gender. By understanding and using hen correctly, we not only enrich our own linguistic skills but also contribute to a more inclusive world.

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