Definition of themselves in US English:



  • 1reflexive Used as the object of a verb or preposition to refer to a group of people or things previously mentioned as the subject of the clause.

    ‘countries unable to look after themselves’
    • ‘People would also take clothes to be laundered, which they had to do themselves.’
    • ‘In fact, to do so is especially tempting since they seem to take themselves so very seriously.’
    • ‘The two girls then lock up the gas station they run and head to the dump to rid themselves of the body.’
    • ‘Startled onlookers saw officers arm themselves and take up positions in front of the house.’
    • ‘We are educating adults not to trust one another or themselves around children.’
    • ‘Many people currently describe themselves as students or teachers of the subject.’
    • ‘Patients should be able to refer themselves to a specialist in such circumstances.’
    • ‘It is a vehicle through which to teach children how to behave and how to feel about themselves and others.’
    • ‘He said a bonus of the system was that criminals were far more likely to own up once they saw themselves on camera.’
    • ‘The executives in this case have shown themselves to be anything but patriotic.’
    • ‘Police today offered advice on how van owners can make themselves less vulnerable to the gang.’
    • ‘Female nurses busied themselves lifting the patient and cutting off his clothes.’
    • ‘There is a joke the Serbs tell against themselves about the two Serb astronauts who land on the moon.’
    • ‘Thousands of hopefuls have sent in videos of themselves and have been whittled down to a hundred.’
    • ‘Despite that threat, they threw themselves into the task of revitalising the place.’
    • ‘Instead, we could use fewer rights and a bit more room for parents to sort things out for themselves.’
    • ‘When out and about, most people tend to behave sensibly enough not to put themselves at huge risk.’
    • ‘Can she and her ex-husband save themselves and their young son from certain death?’
    • ‘All those who regard themselves as progressives must stand firm in the face of this new politics.’
    • ‘All four of them acquitted themselves with distinction appearing in all their finals.’
  • 2emphatic Used to emphasize a particular group of people or things mentioned.

    ‘excellent at organizing others, they may well be disorganized themselves’
    • ‘They have got to see what the good teams are doing and try to reach that level themselves.’
    • ‘This does not, as mentioned, mean that ethics and the rest are themselves nonsense.’
    • ‘They are thus able to remain objects of desire without themselves being subject to it.’
    • ‘What annoys me most about the whole subject is the attitude of a lot of smokers themselves.’
    • ‘Computers are made out of materials which are themselves subject to the laws of Nature.’
  • 3singular Used instead of “himself” or “herself” to refer to a person of unspecified sex.

    ‘anyone who fancies themselves as a racing driver’
    • ‘I'm not sure that anyone baptised in this way would be able to call themselves a Christian.’
    • ‘If they repeat themselves or go too far off the subject they can be challenged by another person.’
    • ‘The album is a must-have for anyone who consider themselves to be a dancehall fan.’
    • ‘Anyone prepared to put themselves forward as a leader there is taking their life in their hands.’
    • ‘So, is this just a common response for anyone who gives themselves fully to a given path?’
    • ‘Anyone intelligent can surely figure that out for themselves by hearing him speak?’
    • ‘Why else would anyone want to project themselves to a potential audience of millions?’
    • ‘Very seldom would anyone put themselves through all of this just for a few quid.’
    • ‘It is essential for anyone wanting to express themselves and hear what others have to say.’
    • ‘All of which is hugely depressing to anyone who still considers themselves part of the left.’


On the use of themselves in the singular to mean ‘himself or herself,’ see they