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The word and term 'it' can be used for either a subject or an object in a sentence and can describe any physical or psychological subject and / or object.
In English, words such as it and its genitive form its have been used to refer to human babies and animals, although with the passage of time this usage has come to be considered too impersonal in the case of babies, as it may be thought to demean a conscious being to the status of a mere object. This use of "it" is also criticized when used it as a rhetorical device to dehumanize their enemies, implying that they were little more than other animals. The word remains in common use however, and its use increases with the degree to which the speaker views an object of speech as impersonal. For example, someone else's dog is often referred to as "it", especially if the dog isn't known by the speaker, or if the dog's gender is unknown. A person would rarely say "it" when referring to his/her own cat or dog. Examples:
- The baby had its first apple.
- They are taking their dog to the vet, as they said it looked ill.
"It" is still used for idiomatic phrases such as Is it a boy or a girl? Once the gender of the child has been established, the speaker or writer then switches to gender-specific pronouns.