Is there a possibility to form the following sentence "gender-independent" in English?

Everybody sees, what he/she wants to see.

What can I use instead of he/she? Additionally: How can I give this sentence a poetic touch?

P.S. I am a German native speaker with Turkish origin. In Turkish you can say:

"Herkes görmek istediğini görür"

and there is no gender information. Is that possible in English?

My current workaround:

You see, what you want to see.

What about:

One sees, what one wants to see ?

  • @Raj33 Thank you, I've already seen that, but there is no answer, furthermore The only way to use singular verbs in such a case is to switch to a different pronoun. If there is no way, I would like to know, how it can be improved with a poetic touch?
    – user44064
    Jan 7, 2018 at 16:23
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    It's common to use the singular they. Everyone sees what they want to see. See: merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/singular-nonbinary-they Jan 7, 2018 at 16:46
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    I'm not a native English speaker, so I think I'm not eligible to give a poetic touch to your sentence. So let's wait for some native English speaker. In mean time, please edit your question to add all the doubts you asked in the comments. Also please have a look at this links, I hope it may help you forum.wordreference.com/threads/everybody-sees-they-see.2436698 & forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=1977175
    – Raj 33
    Jan 7, 2018 at 16:48
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    Singular "they" is not grammatical; it often creates something called "synesis" and many grammarians still object to it even though Chaucer, I believe, used it as far back as the 14th Century. If you want to be poetic, you should use the neuter "he"; that is still considered correct and it is very poetic. All the old poets (all of whom are long dead now) use it in their poems.
    – Nick
    Jan 8, 2018 at 18:44

1 Answer 1


I always follow the old rule of using the neuter "he", but a lot of people do not like this old rule. I personally don't care whether they like it or not unless they happen to be grading a paper of mine. In fact, I had a professor once who would deduct points from my college papers because I continued to use the neuter "he" even though she had asked me to stop using it. We even got into an argument over it once that spilled out into the hallway and ended up being mediated by another professor who was passing by and heard the quarrel; nevertheless, I still continued to use it and she continued to deduct points. I got a C in that class, but I learned from it. I had another professor after her who objected to the neuter "he" as well, but I had learned from my past mistakes so, just for her class, I patronized her by writing "he or she" and never argued with her about it. But, if you want it to be gender neutral, you can just use the neuter "he" and the "he" refers to both males and females much like "ils" (French masculine "they") refers to either a group of men or a group of men and women whereas "elles" refers to a group of only women:

Everybody sees what he wants to see.

Should this rule be too gender specific for you, you can always write it in the plural:

All of them see what they want to see.

They all see what they want to see.

Here's a link to another answer of mine that I wrote yesterday on the same subject: What pronoun should i use if i want to indicate something in general.

  • Yes, and a poetic touch, as I've stated in my comment above, would be to use just "he" as gender neutral. All of the old, dead poets use it in their poems. Using "they" as the singular would not be poetic; it would be more modern and still grammatically wrong ("synesis"). Using "he or she" would also not be poetic, but modern.
    – Nick
    Jan 8, 2018 at 18:56

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