can i use it for animals in the following sentece?

1- I have a dog named Don. It is a very good dog.

I know most people would use "he" instead of "it" in the following context and my grammar book says when we want to personified an animal we can use "he" or "they". But my question is, if I used "it" in the above, would that be grammatical?


4 Answers 4


The linguistic usages associated with household pets have been well covered in other answers, but they do not exhaust the topic.

In many cases, the sex of an animal (other than a pet) either is not known or is irrelevant. In those cases, it is idiomatic to use "it" as a pronoun. If the sex of the animal is known and relevant, then the pronoun appropriate to the animal's sex is idiomatic. "The kittens' mother was very attentive. It was continually bathing them with its tongue" is far less likely than "The kittens' mother was very attentive. She was continuously bathing them with her tongue."

Furthermore, if the animal has been specified by a noun that specifies sex, the pronoun should agree. For example, it is not idiomatic to refer to a "bull" or a "boar" as "she," nor is it idiomatic to refer to a "ewe," or a "lioness" as "he."


I have a dog named Don. It's a very good dog.

Yes, the use of it for a pet animal as in the sentence, though not much common or idiomatic, is grammatical. You normally use he/she if you are referring to your or somebody else's pet animal.


I don't think it's technically wrong, but it's awkward enough to make people pause.

If you give a dog a name -- especially a human name like "Don" -- it's a little strange to call the dog it immediately afterward. Calling a household pet by name suggests a human-like familiarity that would be extended to its sex. This would be true for cats and dogs and large animals. Smaller animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, and fish are more commonly referred to as it, but it really depends on how tight the bond is between owner and pet. Interestingly, lower life forms like reptiles and insects are often assumed to be male.


Animals that people are emotionally attached to can be referred to with he or she. As @Ringo says, if the dog has a name, someone is emotionally attached to it.

If no emotional attachment exists, it is used.

For a family dog that's been part of a family for several years, the family would use he or she to refer to the dog.

Someone who hates dogs and sees one on the street unexpectedly may use it to refer to the dog.

Animals not commonly kept as pets or taken care of are frequently referred to using it.

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