Themselves or Theirselves – Which Is Correct?

Marcus Froland

Choosing the right word can sometimes feel like a tightrope walk. Especially when it comes to pronouns like themselves and theirselves. You’ve probably heard both tossed around in conversations. But here’s the thing – one of these is the hero of our grammar story, and the other? Well, not so much.

Let’s get straight to the point. The English language has a lot of rules, and even more exceptions to those rules. But when it comes to picking between themselves and theirselves, there’s a clear winner. And knowing which one to use can make your sentences shine. So, which is it going to be?

When it comes to choosing between themselves and theirselves, the correct form is themselves. This word is a reflexive pronoun, used when the subject of the sentence is also the object. For example, “They made themselves lunch.” Reflexive pronouns refer back to the subject to show that the action affects the person who performs it. On the other hand, theirselves is not recognized as a standard word in English. It’s considered incorrect and should be avoided in both speaking and writing. Always use themselves when you need a reflexive pronoun for the third person plural.

The Role of Reflexive Pronouns in the English Language

Reflexive pronouns play an indispensable role in the English language, contributing to grammatical consistency and enhancing writing fluidity. By reflecting the action back onto the subject, these pronouns reduce redundancy in sentences and improve flow. They’re prevalent in various languages, including Chinese, Spanish, and French. Let’s explore their usage and roles in English.

Occasionally, you’ll come across a reflexive pronoun used in a non-reflexive context, particularly within professional communication. However, it is considered a nonstandard usage, and it would be more appropriate to use the correct pronoun type.

Incorrect: “Please CC myself.”
Correct: “Please CC Donna and me.”

Understanding the fundamental principles of reflexive pronoun usage enables you to articulate your thoughts in a clear and grammatically consistent manner. Here are some practical tips to master the various roles of reflexive pronouns in English:

  1. Recognize reflexive pronouns’ primary function is to streamline sentences by reducing redundancy.
  2. Be cautious of nonstandard usage. While occasional non-reflexive usage occurs, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with standard English grammar to ensure your writing remains polished and professional.
  3. Remember that reflexive pronouns are prevalent across different languages, so if you’re a multilingual speaker, it’s worth identifying and understanding their roles in each language.

With these tips in mind, you will start developing a strong foundation for utilizing reflexive pronouns in a manner consistent with standard English grammar rules. This knowledge will ultimately contribute to improved communication and writing skills, and help you express yourself more effectively and confidently.

Introduction to Themselves: The Standard Plural Reflexive Pronoun

Reflexive pronouns play a significant role in English grammar, particularly when it comes to eliminating redundancy and maintaining sentence cohesion. Among these pronouns, themselves stands out as the proper and commonly used plural reflexive pronoun. This section will introduce you to the definition, proper use, and real-world examples of the reflexive pronoun “themselves.”

The Definition and Proper Use of Themselves

“Themselves” is a plural reflexive pronoun that refers to a group of people who are both the subject and the object of an action in a sentence. In other words, it is used when multiple individuals are acting upon themselves. By using “themselves,” you maintain grammatical consistency and enhance the fluidity of your writing.

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Themselves in Context: Real-world Examples

To gain a better understanding of how “themselves” functions in context, let’s explore some real-world examples that demonstrate its proper usage:

  1. After the meeting, the employees organized themselves into groups to work on the project.
  2. The kids entertained themselves while their parents chatted in the living room.
  3. The volunteers sorted the donations themselves before distributing them to the beneficiaries.

In these examples, “themselves” refers to a group of people who are engaging in an action that directly pertains to them. Notice how the use of “themselves” reflects the fact that the subjects and objects are the same entities—for instance, the employees forming groups, the kids amusing themselves or the volunteers sorting donations.

“The Republicans themselves did not expect to win the 2016 presidential election.”

In the quote above, “themselves” functions as an intensive pronoun, adding emphasis to the subject and specifying who will perform the action. In this case, it highlights that the Republicans did not anticipate their own victory.

Overall, a solid understanding of the reflexive pronoun “themselves” is crucial to ensure accurate and clear communication in both spoken and written English. By practicing its proper usage and familiarizing yourself with real-life examples, you can easily enhance your proficiency in standard English grammar.

When Might You Encounter ‘Theirselves’ in English?

Although “theirselves” is widely regarded as incorrect and is largely shunned in written English, you may still occasionally encounter this term in spoken forms of the language. This nonstandard usage is often associated with certain dialectical forms, particularly in informal conversations and regional dialects. Nevertheless, it’s essential to remember that using “theirselves” instead of the correct reflexive pronoun “themselves” is a marker of poor English skills and should be avoided, especially in formal settings and academic writing.

To better understand why “theirselves” might appear in spoken English, it’s crucial to consider the socio-linguistic context of its occurrence. In some cases, people may adopt nonstandard grammar as a way to assert their cultural identity or to highlight a distinctive regional dialect. However, this use of “theirselves” is typically limited to informal settings and social contexts, where people feel more comfortable bending the norms of standard English grammar.

Even though I knew it wasn’t proper English, I couldn’t help but smile when I overheard somebody using “theirselves” during a casual conversation with friends. It reminded me of the linguistic diversity and rich variety of dialects that make up the English language.

Despite the potential charm of dialectical linguistic variations, it’s important to recognize that using “theirselves” can lead to confusion and miscommunication, especially when interacting with speakers unfamiliar with your regional dialect. To ensure clarity and to adhere to the conventions of standard English, it is always best to use “themselves” as the correct reflexive pronoun:

  • The students organized the event by themselves.
  • They should be proud of themselves for achieving such great results.
  • The volunteers outdid themselves with their incredible effort and dedication.

By choosing the appropriate reflexive pronoun, you demonstrate a higher level of literacy and respect for the English language. So, whenever you encounter “theirselves” in everyday speech, recognize it as a linguistic curiosity limited to informal spoken English, and stick to using “themselves” in both spoken and written communication.

The Grammatical Pitfalls of ‘Theirselves’

Despite being a nonstandard form, “theirselves” might appear in some spoken or informal contexts, driven by misconceptions about pronoun usage. This section will discuss the common misuses and misconceptions of “theirselves” and their impact on your English language communication.

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Common Misuses and Misconceptions About ‘Theirselves’

One contributing factor to the use of “theirselves” is the confusion that arises from blending “their” and “selves” together, given that both are legitimate components in English grammar. Unfortunately, this blend results in a nonstandard reflexive pronoun, thereby causing theirselves grammatical errors. To demonstrate the misleading impression created by “theirselves,” consider the following example:

Incorrect: The students made theirselves lunch.
Correct: The students made themselves lunch.

Another misconception driving the use of “theirselves” stems from unfamiliarity with standard English grammar rules, particularly with regards to reflexive pronouns. As a result, individuals might inadvertently use “theirselves” instead of the correct form “themselves.” Additionally, some regional dialects may employ “theirselves” in spoken language, fostering a false sense of acceptance and reinforcing its usage.

It’s important to acknowledge that the term “theirselves” is exceedingly rare, with Bryan Garner estimating a usage disparity of approximately 3,182:1 in favor of “themselves.” This illustrates the overwhelming preference for “themselves” over “theirselves” in English language usage.

To avoid falling into the grammatical pitfalls of “theirselves,” be vigilant about using the standard reflexive pronoun “themselves” consistently. Ensure that you are familiar with proper reflexive pronoun usage, and where possible, consult resources or seek guidance from proficient English speakers to improve your understanding and skillset.

Understanding the Usage of Themselves vs. Theirselves Through History

The historical usage of pronouns is key to understanding the longstanding preference for themselves over theirselves in English grammar. Language, being a living entity, evolves throughout time, and the story of these two reflexive pronouns is no exception.

With the availability of numerous digital archives, we now have access to a wealth of historical data that helps us analyze the use of these pronouns across centuries. This data shows an overwhelming preference for themselves in comparison to theirselves, remained consistent throughout history.

“Themselves” has stood the test of time as the preferred reflexive pronoun while “theirselves” continues to be a dialectal form with limited acceptance in standard English.

Few examples of historical texts support the acceptance of theirselves within the standard English language. Conversely, themselves can be found extensively in historical literature, highlighting the ingrained preference of writers and grammarians for this pronoun throughout history.

  1. Themselves: widespread historical usage, demonstrating consistent preference by writers and standard acceptance in English.
  2. Theirselves: rare historical occurrence, viewed primarily as a dialectical variant and not accepted in standard English.

Whether you are a native speaker or learning English as your second language, being aware of the historical context and usage of these pronouns is essential. Using themselves in your written and spoken communication ensures adherence to traditional and modern grammar rules, thereby enhancing your credibility and the clarity of your message.

‘Theirself’ and ‘Themself’ in Singular Neuter Reflexive Usage

When it comes to singular neuter reflexive pronouns, a linguistic dilemma arises. Traditionally, neither “theirself” nor “themself” has appeared in dictionaries, nor been recognized by word processors. Though both words are used, “theirself” often seems more accurate due to the fact that “their” can sometimes be singular.

Despite the controversy surrounding the use of these pronouns, language evolves over time, and dictionaries must adapt accordingly. In September 2019, Merriam-Webster officially recognized these pronouns by adding both “theirself” and “themself” to their dictionary. This move signifies a considerable shift in the understanding of pronoun spelling and acknowledges the evolving use of these singular forms.

“As of September 2019, Merriam-Webster officially recognized ‘theirself’ and ‘themself,’ indicating a change in the understanding of pronoun spelling.”

While discussions on the proper usage of theirself vs themself continue, it is essential to remain up to date with the latest linguistic norms. By doing so, you can ensure that your writing stays current and accurately reflects language evolution. Feel free to consult reputable dictionaries and grammar resources to stay informed of any updates in pronoun usage and spelling.

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Avoiding Common Mistakes: Why ‘Themselves’ Prevails in Formal Writing

When it comes to formal writing pronoun choice, using the correct reflexive pronoun is crucial. The standard plural reflexive pronoun “themselves” prevails, as it is universally recognized and expected in formal writing. On the other hand, “theirselves” is not considered a conventional choice and could potentially harm the credibility of the writing. By avoiding common English mistakes in pronoun usage, you project a higher level of literacy and adherence to English standards.

Let’s take a look at some practical tips to help you avoid making the common error of using “theirselves” in formal writing:

  1. Always proofread your work to spot any incorrect usage of reflexive pronouns.
  2. Consider using grammar checker tools to help identify the correct reflexive pronoun choice.
  3. Seek feedback from others, especially fluent English speakers, to spot any potential errors.
  4. Continuously practice and engage with English texts that follow standard grammar rules.

By choosing “themselves” over “theirselves,” you demonstrate your understanding of proper English grammar, making your writing more credible and trustworthy in the eyes of your audience.

In formal writing, it is very important to follow the rules of English grammar when using reflexive pronouns. Using the correct plural reflexive pronoun, “themselves,” rather than the nonstandard “theirselves,” ensures that your writing maintains its credibility and effectively communicates your intended message to the readers.

Tips for Remembering the Correct Reflexive Pronoun

In order to maintain a high level of grammar accuracy, especially when it comes to reflexive pronoun correctness, it is essential to leverage language tools and strategies. By improving your grammatical intuition and following a few practical suggestions, you can ensure proper reflexive pronoun usage in your writing.

Leverage Language Tools to Enhance Grammar Accuracy

Several language tools and software can help you identify and correct inappropriate reflexive pronoun usage. Grammar checkers, such as Grammarly and ProWritingAid, provide valuable suggestions to improve your text’s overall quality. These tools not only correct punctuation, spelling, and grammar errors but also offer tips on refining your writing style. Make sure to utilize these resources to enhance your language skills and increase confidence in your reflexive pronoun correctness.

Strategies for Enhancing Your Grammatical Intuition

There are various approaches to improve your grammatical intuition and master reflexive pronoun usage strategies. Dedicate time to practicing English grammar exercises, as they can offer valuable insights into proper reflexive pronoun usage. Keeping an English-language journal provides you with a platform to practice and hone your writing abilities. Additionally, engaging in conversations with fluent speakers and seeking their feedback on your grammar usage can significantly advance your language proficiency. By recognizing and addressing your most common errors, you can establish a solid foundation for clear and grammatically correct writing.

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