Compared to English, Portuguese (my natural language) has a easy way to deal with he/she situations because that language has feminine and masculine words.

For example: in English you call boats and cars as "she" because it is tradition but in Portuguese the elements are masculine by definition.

I have to describe an expression used in Portugal to a foreigner. That expression is used to describe something hard to believe said by someone.

So I say:

This is something hard to believe said by someone. Example: a parasite saying he/she will get a job.

This is strange to me because I began the phrase talking but a parasite (one person) but I am using he/she (two persons) at the end of the phrase.

How to write such things in English? They?

This is something hard to believe said by someone. Example: a parasite saying they will get a job.

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    Yes, when we want to express something in a gender neutral way, we use they. It is done usually when we have no idea what the gender of the person/animal we are talking about is. To avoid any unnecessary tension, we prefer using 'they'. But again, if you know the parasite is male, use 'he', otherwise if female, use 'she'. Nov 27, 2020 at 21:14
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    "he/she" is not two persons. It is one person. It means "He or she"
    – James K
    Nov 27, 2020 at 21:44
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    Now I'm curious, because according to google translate, portuguese differs from French in this respect. Do you say "ela é uma parasita" or "um parasita". Does the article agree with the grammatical gender of parasita, or the semantic gender of ela? Perhaps the fact is that in Portuguese, "parasita" is commonly applied to people, and can be both masculine or feminine, according to the person it is applied to. (unlike in say French, where it remains masculine in gender)
    – James K
    Nov 27, 2020 at 22:02
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    I would say that "parasite" is not often used to describe a person in English. If you're talking about someone in a workplace who is not contributing (or even harming things), the usual term is "deadweight", which is uncountable so it does not take an article. Nov 28, 2020 at 1:36
  • @JamesK - we say "ela é uma parasita".
    – Duck
    Nov 28, 2020 at 16:25

1 Answer 1


In English, a person can be described figuratively as a 'parasite', but there would be contextual words, e.g. 'A person who is nothing but a parasite saying they (gender-neutral) are going to get a job'. Saying a 'parasite saying they will get a job' is nonsensical. You would not suppose that a leech, a tapeworm, nematode, etc, could speak, get a job, write a letter, or drive a car. if you want to employ non-figurative language, maybe you mean a 'dead-beat' or 'idler'.

  • amazing. THANKS!
    – Duck
    Nov 28, 2020 at 16:28

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