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How should I use pronouns with words like "everyone", "someone", "somebody", "a person"?

For example, I want to say this:
Everyone who likes **themselves**... / Someone who likes **themselves**....
And what if I use "a person"?
If a person likes.. himself? themselves?

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  • Use themself when they is used (or implied) as a gender-neutral pronoun. Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 12:29

2 Answers 2

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If you tell a girl that she needs to behave herself to get candy, you would say something like "Sally, behave yourself.". This is because the action is reflexive, and you would use self rather than selves because she is only one person.

The same thing goes for a person of unknown gender. If you are laying out the rules of a party, you would say that "Every party guest needs to behave themself or else they'll be kicked out." Again, the action is reflexive, and you would use self rather than selves because a party guest is only one person.

As the above commentator says, themselves is more commonly used in this situation than themself, mostly because the pronoun they has been considered a plural pronoun for so long. However, the pronoun you was in this situation before, so it has to be used as a guide in this context. If you use themself enough, you'll get used to it.

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"Himself" and "Herself" will follow the gender of the subject, when it's a single person e.g.

The man looked at himself in the mirror and cried.

The girl considered herself to be too tall.

Multiple people is always "themselves":

The team could imagine themselves winning the league.

For a single person where the gender is unspecified then we also use "themselves":

Every time someone entered the room they always took a moment to compose themselves before speaking.

Sometimes "itself" is appropriate, mostly when people are not involved:

The dragon gradually ate itself as a result of chewing on its tail.

The car drove itself over a cliff due to a software fault.

Technically "themself" is considered valid (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/themself) but it feels kind of unnatural to me and I would not choose to use it rather than "themselves". Merriam-Webster explores this in more detail - https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/themself - so there's nothing wrong with using 'themself' if that's what you prefer.

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