Themself, themselves, theirself, or theirselves

Discussion in 'English Only' started by lilblu, Apr 21, 2011.

  1. lilblu Member

    I'm writing a reason as to why I was no longer needed as a caregiver. I'm having problems deciding on whether I should use themself, themselves, theirself, or theirselves. So I need to know which one is correct. Also, I need to know whether the sentence is worded ok or if there would be a better way to phrase it.

    1) The patient became able to take care of themself.
    2) The patient became able to take care of themselves.
    3) The patient became able to take care of theirself.
    4) The patient became able to take care of theirselves.

    I'm thinking number three is correct. But I don't know if I like the way it's worded. Since it's for a job application form, I'd like to spice it up a little.
  2. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    American English
    There is just one person, so you would use himself or herself as appropriate: The patient became able to care for himself.

    To spice it up, you could say: Through my loving care and healing hands, the patient was able to walk again and has rejoined the circus.
  3. MilkyBarKid Senior Member

    British English
    You are talking about a specific patient, one for whom you were the caregiver, and hence, a person for whom, it would be expected, that you felt a warm compassion.

    To objectify and generalize this person into a 'them' - in the eyes of a potential employer - is to seem cold and callous.

    Your former patient was a male or female, and should be referred to as such:

    The patient became able to take care of himself.

    Now, it's a case of rewording the 'became able', which rather grates on the ears and sensibilities.
  4. boozer Senior Member

    Yes, indeed.

    Perhaps the following could be said? :
    The patient recovered sufficiently so as to be able to take care of himself/herself.
  5. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    American English
    I tend to swoon when I hear "so as to" but it may be a personal affliction. :)
    The patient recovered enough to care for himself.
    The patient regained the ability to care for himself.
  6. lilblu Member

    :eek: Well don't I feel dumb. I always do that though. I always refer to a person as them or they rather than he or she. I wonder why I do that.

    Is there another term I can use in place of patient? I really don't like the word because when I think of a patient, I think of doctors. Do caregivers have patients? I just don't like it.

    Thanks for the help.
  7. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    American English
    You can simply say person, or the person in my care, or the person I was caring for.
  8. alfajor Senior Member

    Bs. As., Firenze, NYC
    el castellano argentino, italiano, English
    If you made the subject of the sentence plural, you could use themselves.

    Theirself/theirselves is not standard English. Neither is themself.
  9. DrewK

    DrewK New Member

    Hey Lilblu,

    "They" has been used for centuries to refer to a single subject, so your concern is well-merited.

    I would avoid clunky and awkward constructions using "him or herself." It simply does not sound good. Nor does it account for the many Americans who do not identify as either gender.

    "They" as a singular third-person pronoun is tricky, though, since the reflexive, "themselves," only exists in the plural. While it would still make sense for you to say the person in question could take care of "themselves," I find it rather ugly, and it may cause some confusion.

    "The patient can now care for themself" is what I would use.

    Good luck!
  10. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 75)
    UK English
    To say himself/herself would just sound extremely clumsy in speech, which rules it out.
    Secondly, himself will not do since it refers to a male person.
    So we are left with themselves or themself if we do not know the gender of the patient.

    Themself, which has a long history behind it in English, is gradually becoming more popular and has been used in recent years in The Times and in the pronouncements of the Canadian Supreme Court.
    For some reason that escapes me, it is described as nonstandard in some style books. However, it is described in its reflexive use in the American Heritage Dictionary as informal. I wonder why they didn't use nonstandard? :)

    Many people go to great lengths to avoid using themself, although they apparently go along with themselves. Nevertheless, it seems to fill a useful gap, despite its so-called informal usage.

    (The use of theirself is regional in AE and is described as vernacular, like hisself.)
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2016
  11. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    What kind of caregivers would not know the genders of their patients?
  12. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    It is useful for discussing patients in general: "When a patient can care for themself/themselves, they may be presented with their bill for treatment."

    I suspect that at the moment themself and themselves are more or less equal in use for the singular and time will sort out which is used.

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