1. Pirulo1234 Senior Member

    Hi! In the following sentence:

    "Though you want to encourage the other person to talk about themselves, you need to contribute to the dialogue, too"

    Is "themselves" correct? Since we're talking about "the other person", wouldn't "himself/herself" be more proper?


    EDITED: I've also heard in this video the following sentence: "If you realize the other person isn't saying much, tell them you've enjoyed talking to them"

    My doubt appears again.
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2013
  2. CuervoGold

    CuervoGold Senior Member

    I think that English people use "them/themselves/their" when they don't know the gender. Es decir, cuando se desconoce el género se emplea la tercera persona del plural.

    Veamos qué dicen los nativos.
  3. Cenzontle

    Cenzontle Senior Member

    English, U.S.
    Hello, Pirulo. You are going to get a great variety of responses to this question.
    There is no answer that satisfies everyone.
    Tradition called for "himself". Gender equality encourages "himself/herself", but that's awkward, especially when read aloud.
    I personally find "the other person [...] tell them" fully acceptable (but others do not),
    while "themselves" for a gender-neutral singular sounds ludicrous to me, unless you are referring to someone with multiple personalities.
    I once caused revulsion in some foreros by promoting the "nonexistent" word "themself" for sentences like your first one.
    Consider the alternative of making all references to that "other" plural, like this:
    "When you speak to other people and you want to encourage them to talk about themselves,..."
  4. Alificacion

    Alificacion Senior Member

    Spain - Spanish
    Hi Pirulo,

    You're right, it's used instead of "himself/herself". However, "they", "them" and "themselves" is very commonly used when referring to a single person when you don't know their gender, to avoid the hassle of doing the "him/her" thing all the time.

    So, if you say "Can my friend come?" and I have no idea if your friend is a man or a woman, I can say "Absolutely, tell them to come!" instead of "Tell him or her to come".

    In this case, as it's referring to a hypothetical person, it can either be a man or a woman, that's why they choose "they".
  5. duvija

    duvija Senior Member

    Spanish - Uruguay
    You are all right. In spite of the image of the English language not having problems with gender, it still does. Sounds silly, but yes, the plural is just the singular he/she, him/her, when a) we don't know, or b) it's irrelevant, or 3) we don't want to tell anybody the sex of the person. (those are the 3 canonical reasons you'll find in decent grammar books)

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