themselves

play
plural pronoun them·selves \thəm-ˈselvz, them-\

Definition of themselves

  1. 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 others>b :  himself or herself :  himself, herself —used with an indefinite third person singular antecedent <nobody can call themselves oppressed — Leonard Wibberley>

  2. 2 :  their normal, healthy, or sane condition <were themselves again after a night's rest>

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.

13th Century

First Known Use of themselves

13th century



THEMSELVES Defined for English Language Learners

themselves

play
plural pronoun them·selves \thəm-ˈselvz, them-\

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

themselves

play
pronoun them·selves \thəm-ˈselvz\

Definition of themselves for Students

  1. :  their own selves <They enjoyed themselves.> <The students did it themselves.>



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