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    #1

    Question 'They' to replace 'he or she'

    The following context is copied a grammar book.

    If any of you are bored, he or she can quietly leave the room now for ten minutes for some fresh air for himself or herself.

    In order to avoid the use of he or she in the above sentence, it is stated as:

    *If any of you are bored, they can quietly leave the room now for ten <=correct=you
    minutes for some fresh air for themself. <=correct=yourselves.


    I am confused with the above context marked with *. Why does the author use 'themself' not 'themselves'? Am I correct to reconstruct the above context as follows:-

    1. If any of you are bored, they can quietly leave the room now for ten minutes for some fresh air for themselves.
    2. If any of you are bored, you can quietly leave the room now for ten minutes for some fresh air for yourselves.

    Thanks.

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    #2

    Re: 'They' to replace 'he or she'

    Consider this - from the COED


    Concise Oxford English Dictionary © 2008 Oxford University Press:
    themself/šəmˈself/
    pronoun [third person sing.]informal used instead of ‘himself’ or ‘herself’ to refer to a person of unspecified sex.
    usage: The standard reflexive form corresponding to they and them is themselves. The singular form themself has been used recently to correspond to the singular use ofthey when referring to a person of unspecified sex, as in helping someone to help themself. However, themself is not regarded as good English, and themselvesshould be used instead. For more details, see usage at they.


    Rover

  1. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: 'They' to replace 'he or she'

    Although I can't understand why you would start off saying "if any of YOU" and then switch to third-person, regardless of number.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    #4

    Re: 'They' to replace 'he or she'

    I find "
    If any of you are bored, they can quietly leave the room now for ten minutes for some fresh air for themself" extremely unnatural. My suggestions would be:

    If any of you are bored, you can quietly leave the room now to get some fresh air for ten minutes.
    If anyone is bored, they can quietly leave the room now to get some fresh air for ten minutes.

    The use of "yourself/yourselves/themself/themselves" is entirely unnecessary.

    I agree with Barb that changing from "you" to "they" halfway through the sentence is inexplicable.

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    #5

    Re: 'They' to replace 'he or she'

    Thanks,Rover_KE,Bar_D and emsr2d2.

    To make the context clear to our respectful teachers in this forum, I copy the whole context as follows:-

    Pronouns

    The following style is not recommend in this book. It is incorrect grammatically.

    *Themself is not recognized in standard English. It is used when someone does not want to specify the sex of the person, or when the gender is unknown. In this case, the word they is treated as a singular personal pronoun without any sex-making. Its reflexive pronoun is derived from them and self as themself. It is a modern idea, which is dislike by many people. Its use is illustrated below:
    7. If any of you are bored, he or she can quietly leave the room now for ten minutes for some fresh air for himself or herself.

    In order to avoid the use of he or she in the above sentence, it is stated as:

    8.If any of you are bored, they can quietly leave the room now for ten
    minutes for some fresh air for themself. <=correct=you <=correct=yourselves.

    9. Somebody has forgotten their umbrella. They must collect it themself from my office.
    <=correct=themselves

    If you write they and themselves for a singular personal pronoun, most of your readers will find this use repellent.

  3. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: 'They' to replace 'he or she'

    If you write they and themselves for a singular personal pronouns most of your readers will find this use completely normal, unexceptional, expected, and increasingly accepted in almost all but the most formal registers.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    #7

    Re: 'They' to replace 'he or she'

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    If you write they and themselves for a singular personal pronouns most of your readers will find this use completely normal, unexceptional, expected, and increasingly accepted in almost all but the most formal registers.
    Thanks, Barb_D.

    Am I correct to reconstruct the above context as follows:-

    1. If anyone is bored, they can quietly leave the room now for ten minutes for some fresh air for themselves.
    2. If any of you are bored, you can quietly leave the room now for ten minutes for some fresh air for yourselves.

    Thanks again.
    Last edited by Winwin2011; 06-Jun-2012 at 06:13.

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    #8

    Re: 'They' to replace 'he or she'

    Quote Originally Posted by Winwin2011 View Post
    Am I correct to reconstruct the above context as follows:-

    1. If anyone is bored, they can quietly leave the room now for ten minutes for some fresh air for themselves.
    2. If any of you are bored, you can quietly leave the room now for ten minutes for some fresh air for yourselves.

    Thanks again.
    No, you should reconstruct them as ems has done in post #4. I'd also leave "for themselves/yourselves" off.

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    #9

    Re: 'They' to replace 'he or she'

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    No, you should reconstruct them as ems has done in post #4. I'd also leave "for themselves/yourselves" off.
    I forgot to read emsr2d2's suggestions again before I asked this question.Her suggestions are excellent. Many thanks to all respectful teachers here.
    Last edited by Winwin2011; 06-Jun-2012 at 06:28.

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    #10

    Re: 'They' to replace 'he or she'

    Quote Originally Posted by Winwin2011 View Post
    If you write they and themselves for a singular personal pronoun, most of your readers will find this use repellent.
    Some object, but it's very common and many people won't even notice any more. I use it. Many languages use plural pronouns for the singular, as a way of showing politeness for instance. I think it's the same here- it avoids making assumptions about gender and doesn't require wordy solutions like he or she/his or her. There are certain exceptions, such law, where using they could be confusing, but other than that, it's fine.

    We have had two or three emails about the issue from pedants complaining about it on the site, so that means one complaint every few years. Only a very small number of people feel strongly about the issue. And they're on the losing side IMO- usage has changed.

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