‘Theirselves' vs 'Themselves': What's the Difference Between the Two?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on February 9, 2023

'Theirselves' vs 'themselves' are two words that are often used interchangeably. But are they both correct? And if not, which one should you use? Let's find out.

In short:

  • 'Themselves' is the correct term.
  • 'Theirselves' is grammatically incorrect and shouldn't be used.

What's the Difference Between 'Theirselves' vs 'Themselves'

'Theirselves' and 'themselves' are often used interchangeably as the reflexive pronoun form of 'they.' Unfortunately, only one of them is correct, and that's 'themselves.'

A reflexive pronoun refers back to the subject of the sentence. 'Themselves' is a plural reflexive pronoun when 'they' is the third-person plural pronoun, and it's a singular reflexive pronoun when 'they' is the gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun.

Other reflexive pronouns in the English language include:

  • Himself
  • Herself
  • Myself

'Themselves' can be used in two different circumstances.

The Subject as Object

'Themselves' is the object of the sentence and refers back to the subject of the sentence. Therefore, it's used in contexts where the subject is also the object. For example:

My kids will have to learn to look after themselves once they move out and become freshmen.

In the above example, the subject is 'my kids,' and the object is also 'my kids.' Instead of using 'my kids' twice, we use 'themselves.'

To Emphasize the Pronoun 'They'

'Themselves' can also be used to emphasize the pronoun 'they' that's already in the sentence. For example:

They don't even know themselves what they're going to do yet.

In the above example, the pronoun 'themselves' emphasizes that even they don't know. Up until that point, the conversation might have been going something like this:

What activities have your husband and son planned for their vacation?

I'm not sure. They don't even know themselves yet what they're going to do yet.

In this conversation, the pronoun 'themselves' helps show that since even the two men don't know what they're going to do, there's little chance that the speaker would know.

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Themselves'

Now that we're clear on the word's meaning and which one to use, let's go over the correct pronunciation. This is what it sounds like:

[ thuhm-selvz ]

Note that the first 'e' almost sounds like a 'u.' It isn't quite as intense as a 'u,' but it's flatter than an 'e.' It sounds like the 'e' in 'the.'

And in case you'd like to know the International Phonetic Alphabet spelling, here it is:

/ ðəmˈsɛlvz /

When to Use 'Themselves'

Now let's take a look at some examples of the pronoun used in sentences.

The segway track wasn't set up when they arrived, so they had to do it themselves.

They were making themselves some dinner when I walked in.

The team themselves didn't know the game was canceled.

Concluding Thoughts on 'Theirselves' vs 'Themselves'

That concludes this article on the difference between 'theirselves' and 'themselves.' Now you know:

  • 'Themselves' is correct, and 'theirselves' is not
  • 'Theirselves' is a reflexive pronoun that can be used to refer back to or emphasize the subject 'they.'

If you'd like to learn about more confusing words like these, head to our blog.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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