Definition of themselves
1a : those identical ones that are they — compare they 1a —used reflexively, for emphasis, or in absolute constructions nations that govern themselves they themselves were present themselves busy, they disliked idleness in othersb : himself or herself : himself, herself —used with an indefinite third person singular antecedent nobody can call themselves oppressed — Leonard Wibberley
2 : their normal, healthy, or sane condition were themselves again after a night's rest
Can they be used as an indefinite subject?
They used as an indefinite subject (sense 2) is sometimes objected to on the grounds that it does not have an antecedent. Not every pronoun requires an antecedent, however. The indefinite they is used in all varieties of contexts and is standard.
Can they, their, them, and themselves be used as singular pronouns?
They, their, them, themselves: English lacks a common-gender third person singular pronoun that can be used to refer to indefinite pronouns (such as everyone, anyone, someone). Writers and speakers have supplied this lack by using the plural pronouns. and every one to rest themselves betake — William Shakespeare I would have everybody marry if they can do it properly — Jane Austen it is too hideous for anyone in their senses to buy — W. H. Auden The plural pronouns have also been put to use as pronouns of indefinite number to refer to singular nouns that stand for many persons. 'tis meet that some more audience than a mother, since nature makes them partial, should o'erhear the speech — William Shakespeare a person can't help their birth — W. M. Thackeray no man goes to battle to be killed. — But they do get killed — G. B. Shaw The use of they, their, them, and themselves as pronouns of indefinite gender and indefinite number is well established in speech and writing, even in literary and formal contexts. This gives you the option of using the plural pronouns where you think they sound best, and of using the singular pronouns (such as he, she, he or she, and their inflected forms) where you think they sound best.
First Known Use of themselves
THEMSELVES Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of themselves for English Language Learners
: those same people, animals, or things:
—used as the object of a verb or preposition to refer to people, animals, or things that have already been mentioned
—used for emphasis to refer again to people, animals, or things that have already been mentioned
THEMSELVES Defined for Kids
Definition of themselves for Students
: their own selves They enjoyed themselves. The students did it themselves.
Seen and Heard
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