himself or herself

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Grammar / Gramática Español-Inglés' started by feminist, Sep 20, 2008.

  1. feminist New Member

    English - Canada
    Is it correct to say "him or herself" or must it be "himself or herself"? "himself or herself" sounds awkward. I'm aware that I can use "himself" alone or I could even use "oneself" but I am just interested in knowing if "him or herself" is correct or not.

    Thank you.
  2. mfmtee Member

    hmm, i think in a conversation, it could pass. though i seldom hear people say it, sometimes it would sound as if you are trying to correct a wrong word. :)

    but when you write it, him or herself are different. so there is a chance you wouldnt be able to send out the right message. on the other hand, if you write himself or herself, it would be awkward. so might as well use himself/oneself only. :)
  3. FromPA

    FromPA Senior Member

    Philadelphia area
    USA English
    In writing I have seen him- or herself (with a dash to show it's incomplete). Also used is him/herself
  4. FlaBird New Member

    "Him- or herself" is correct if you want to shorten "himself or herself."

    The grammar term for this is suspending hyphen.
  5. Áristos

    Áristos Senior Member

    Cieza (Murcia, España)
    español (España)
    Here in Spain, I was taught that when you don't know the gender of the person you are talking about you can say THEY (or THEM, etc.).

    So, would it be correct to say "themself" in this case?

  6. Agró

    Agró Senior Member

    Alta Navarra
    Themselves, si acaso.
  7. Áristos

    Áristos Senior Member

    Cieza (Murcia, España)
    español (España)
    OK, that's what I wanted to know.
    I knew that you had to say "themselves" when it's a plural, but I was wondering whether you could say "themself", in singular, if you are referring to someone (singular) whose gender you don't know.
    Now I see you can't.

    Thank you.
  8. FlaBird New Member

    "Them" is a plural word, so you would have to use a plural ending ("selves"), making it "themselves."

    "Self" is singular. (he--himself, she--herself, them--themselves)

    If it is a single person, I would use "he or she" or "him or her" (i.e., I don't know who left this book behind, but hopefully he or she will come back for it tomorrow, and I will give it to him or her then.)

    Gender is not indicated by "they" or "them." These words are plural (refer to more than one person) and are used when speaking of males, females, or mixtures of both.
  9. Áristos

    Áristos Senior Member

    Cieza (Murcia, España)
    español (España)
    OK, but I remember when I studied English, and I'm quite sure that when gender is not indicated you could use "they".
    For example:
    Find the person who's in charge of the library and give them back the book.

    Isn't that correct?
    I'm puzzled. :(
  10. Áristos

    Áristos Senior Member

    Cieza (Murcia, España)
    español (España)
    This is what I found in the dictionary. See number 4:

    they [ðeɪ] pron pl
    1 ellos, ellas: where are they?, ¿dónde están?
    2 frml they who..., los/las que...
    3 (impersonal) they say that..., se dice que...
    4 (para no tener que especificar el sexo del sujeto) someone said they had seen him, alguien dijo que lo había visto
  11. Malprave New Member

    English - New York

    Saying 'them' to refer to a single person impersonally is common, although it is not technically correct. It just becomes burdensome to always have to say 'him or her.'

    'Find the person who's in charge of the library and give them back the book.'

    This is technically incorrect, as it should read -

    'Find the person who's in charge of the library and give him or her back the book.'

    If you are merely interested in speaking like a native, however, you will sound quite natural saying 'them.' Just don't write it that way - take the time to say 'him or her' on paper.

  12. FlaBird New Member

    While not grammatically correct, the type of usage demonstrated in your example is generally acceptable, especially in general conversation (as opposed to formal writing, etc.). Most people would not even realize that it was grammatically incorrect.

    When trying to be grammatically correct, however, a person would change (rewrite) the sentence to make it correct. For example, "Someone said he was seen at ______," rather than "Someone said they had seen him."

    As every language has experienced, changes occur due to "common usage" (which basically means things are said incorrectly so many times that they sound correct, and become accepted as correct). For example, I can't tell you how many times I have heard people (even professionals on television and radio!) misuse "I" and say something like "She told it to him and I." This is incorrect, but sounds correct because so many people make that type of mistake. (It shoudl be "She told it to him and me.")


    I just looked up some information about this topic online, and found out that in Britain, there is no problem with using the singular "someone" with the plural "they." Maybe that is the source of this confusion--English that developed in two different countries. I am in America, so the things I say pertain to American English, which is being corrupted every day through common usage--or should I say, common MISusage...LOL

    I hope I have not confused you terribly. I originally wanted to just answer the question about "themself." :)
  13. Áristos

    Áristos Senior Member

    Cieza (Murcia, España)
    español (España)
    Hehe, OK, thank you.
    You have been very helpful, the both of you.

    And that's the source of my confusion: my teacher was
    English, so I guess she found it very common to use "they" in that way.


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