I have this sentence:

I completely believe that teenager working is the foundation step for any child to rely on him or her self.

Is this correct? Should I instead say “himself or herself”?

  • 3
    I would write "for children to rely on themselves" or possibly rework it even more and say something like "for any child to develop self-reliance." There are other issues with the sentence, just so you know. Sep 6, 2013 at 15:13
  • 2
    For one, I think it's stronger without “completely”. Secondly, “teenager working” doesn't sound right. “Teenage” is the adjectival form that would modify “working”, but I would recommend that you rewrite that part to be more specific. I think the whole thing could be clearer written thus: “I believe that working as a teenager is foundational for self-reliance.” I removed the latter reference to the subjects' youth, because, in my opinion, it detracts from the message that they will grow to be self-reliant as adults. It's hard to say what would really be best without more context. Sep 6, 2013 at 15:41
  • A suggestion and my interpretation of your phrase would be: "I fully believe that a teenager who manages to go to school and hold down a part-time job is an important step towards maturity and independence.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 10, 2013 at 6:21
  • @Mari-LouA Your sentence has some issues too. You're saying "a teenager [...] is an important step [...]" The predicate does not agree with the subject. You could reword it as: "I fully believe that going to school and managing to hold down a part-time job is an important step for a teenager towards maturity and independence." May 6, 2017 at 8:04

2 Answers 2


This is an ongoing awkwardness in the English language. It still sounds awkward to many of us to use the third person plural to mean a third person masculine-or-feminine singular. However, I think it will eventually be adopted, simply because saying "him or her", "he or she", "him- or herself" (I prefer to use the hyphen) is even more awkward.

Note that in the original sentence "him or her self" is incorrect (hard to notice because the line break occurs there). Herself is one word.


Him or herself is acceptable (without the space between her and self), as is himself or herself, as discussed in this very in-depth discussion of the topic from the English Language and Usage Stack Exchange site.

As Cerberus said on that page,

Although, indeed, him(-) or herself looks like illegitimately cutting up a word, this is how I think most people would say it in speech. Speech is normally leading in such cases, unless this gives you clearly unacceptable results.

Also, as noted in the comments, there are several other problems with the sentence as constructed, but the use of him or herself is fine.

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