An example of themselves used as a pronoun is in the sentence, "The students were unable to look at themselves after what they did."
- as an intensifier: they saw it themselves
- as a reflexive: they hurt themselves
- with the meaning “their real, true, or normal selves” [they are not themselves today]: in this construction them functions as an adjective and selves as a noun; when they are separated, the form their is used [their own sweet selves]
Origin of themselvesLate (Northern) Middle English thaim selfe for Middle English hemselve(n) (see they) + -s, plural suffix
- Those ones identical with them:a. Used reflexively as the direct or indirect object of a verb or as the object of a preposition: prepared themselves for the trip; gave themselves plenty of time; were left to themselves.b. Used for emphasis: The cooks themselves eat after all the guests have finished.c. Used in an absolute construction: Newcomers themselves, they knew few people at the party.
- Their normal or healthy condition: The members of the crew were themselves again after the crisis passed.
- (the reflexive case of they, the third-person plural personal pronoun) The people previously mentioned, as the object of a verb or following a preposition, where the people are also the subject of the verb; also used for emphasis.
- (reflexively): They've hurt themselves.
- (after a preposition): They fought among themselves.
- (for emphasis): They are going to try climbing Mount Everest themselves.
- The person of unspecified gender previously mentioned, as the object of a verb or following a preposition, where the person is also the subject of the verb; also used for emphasis.
- (reflexively): Would whoever stole my phone please make themselves known.
- (after a preposition): They've brought this on themselves.
- (for emphasis): The children did this themselves.
- For notes on the usage referring to a person of unspecified gender, see the usage notes for they.