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The trend nowadays is to use "them" instead of "him/her" to be gender neutral. In a similar vein, we should use "themselves" instead of "himself/herself". But it sounds odd if we are referring to a single person. So, can we spell it "themself" instead?

Update:

Like "yourself" and "yourselves" to distinguish between second person singular and second person plural.

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Not everybody agrees on this. 'They' has been used as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun for quite some time. However, we still use it in the same manner as the plural 'they'. For example, we would say "he doesn't" but "they don't, even if the 'they' is singular. For this reason, using 'themself' in a sentence can sound incorrect alongside the rest of the sentence.

Cambridge dictionary defines 'themself' this way:

used when the subject of the verb is "they" used as a singular pronoun, or a single person who could be any sex, and the object is the same person

This definition is consistent with most style guides. But it only really tells you when you can use 'themself' - there is nothing ungrammatical about using 'themselves' for a singular individual. To sum up - it isn't a strict case of using one or the other; rather, you can use 'themselves' in any instance and be grammatically correct, but you can use 'themself' if you wanted to make it clear you were talking about an individual, or perhaps for other reasons, too.

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  • I should have checked this before. "Yourself" is used for second person singular and "yourselves" for second person plural. Following this pattern, "themself" should be the preferred usage although as you said currently it is not ungrammatical to use "themselves". Aug 20, 2021 at 3:49
  • @RoslanAmir You might think it 'should be' the preferred, but it isn't. Historically, "they" was almost exclusively plural. Use of 'they' as a gender-neutral singular rather than as a plural has increased in modern times. 'Themself' was not always in dictionaries with this meaning - in fact, in some much earlier forms of English 'themself' was the plural. It is very rare to find 'themself' in print as it is not a scholarly choice.
    – Astralbee
    Aug 20, 2021 at 9:07
  • That's what I said. Based on the precedence set by the use of singular "you", it is most logical to do the same with the singular "they". Aug 24, 2021 at 7:33

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