I found this excerpt from Oxford Grammar Course:

In modern English, countries are most often it(s), though she/her is also common.

  • Canada has decided to increase its/her trade with Russia.

Is the usage of determiner her in the sentence above can be used in formal English? Because, as far as I know, country is considered as a neutral noun and that's what Basic English Grammar books that I've studied usually write. Or is it some ungrammatical grammar, yet very common that becomes colloquial?

  • 2
    "Her" could be used in a formal context, but I would consider it very old fashioned. "Its" would be the more modern choice.
    – Katy
    Commented Dec 30, 2021 at 0:31
  • 1
    People sometimes call cars or boats "she" as well. It's purely stylistic.
    – cruthers
    Commented Dec 30, 2021 at 1:07

1 Answer 1


Once, countries were routinely matched with feminine pronouns in English. I believe it went along with the idea of a "mother country".

France might see her way clear to ally with Britain. When she makes up her mind to act, the United Stats can be powerful.

This was the standard English usage prior to WWII. It is now a relic. No one is likely to object if "it" is used as the pronoun for a country, and some people would object or think it odd if she/her was used. I advise against using the feminine pronouns for a country.

But if you see "she" or "her" used, understand that it is a relic of a once standard usage, and do not be confused or surprised.

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