Just days after the fall of Paris, General Charles de Gaulle, In one of the most important speeches in French history, told his fellow countrymen:

'Believe me...nothing is lost for France. The same means that over came us can bring us victory one day. For France is not alone! She is not alone! She is not alone! She has a vast empire behind her.She can align with the British Empire that holds the sea and continues the fight...

Question: Why do we use feminine pronoun for countries? Is it mandatory in English to use feminine pronoun for all countries and states or in some cases masculine pronoun"he" can also be used?

  • 4
    Bear in mind that the General was French, and France is feminine in french. This is not a general feature or requirement of the English language: normally we use the neuter pronoun "it" for countries.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 17:32

1 Answer 1


This is an example of the literary technique of personification. Generally countries take a neuter pronoun "it", but when we treat them as people we generally view them a "mother".

In Britain there is "Britannia", and in France there is "Marianne". Both are seen as personification of the land. And when we "wax lyrical" we might use "she" to emphasise this relationship.

This is seen in other cases. Notably ships are often "she". Some people even talk of their cars as "she". Using a male pronoun is much rarer. Male pronouns are perhaps limited to objects that appear male, for example a male doll or the model of Guy Fawkes on a bonfire.

  • ...or Uncle Sam ...or John Bull. It's less common but it happens, again usually to personify the land in a particular way.
    – lly
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 13:21

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