Five things that may go wrong whenever you are using ‘themselves’


Akeem Lasisi
True. Five things may go wrong when handling the reflexive pronoun, ‘themselves’. Five possible errors, that is. They range from errors of grammar to those of phonology and that is why one must always be careful whenever one is using the word.

In the first instance, some people are tempted to write or say ‘theirselves’ when they mean ‘themselves’. This is totally unacceptable because there is no word like that in English. We have there’, ‘their’ and ‘themselves’, but never theirselves. So, don’t ever be tempted to say, ‘They are blaming theirselves.”

Secondly, ‘themselves’ is also a plural term. So, you should avoid the blunder of writing or saying ‘themself’. Too odd and incorrect – as in: ‘They are blaming themself’.

The third thing that may go wrong – and this is common – is the pronunciation of the first two letters in the pronoun – th. Many people wrongly pronounce them as D. So, they say Demselves or even Deirselves. This is wrong. There is no D in the transcription of the term. The consonant that begins it is /ð/, not /d/. You can watch some videos online to further understand the difference in the pronunciations of the two. But note that what you need is the same sound you have in THis, THat, THe and THough.

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The fourth issue borders on the pronunciation of the V in ‘themselves’. A lot of folks pronounce it as F. The fact, however, is that ‘themselves’ should be pronounced as themselVes, not themselFes. In other words, what you should pronounce is the voiced V, not the voiceless F.

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In many words in English, when letter ”s’ follows a voiced consonant, it is pronounced as Z, not S. It will be spelt and written as ‘s’, as we have in cards, bags and themselves. But because the consonants that precede it are voiced (not voiceless), they should be pronounced as Z. Now, this technical articulation often goes (goeZ!) wrong as many still pronounce ‘themselves’ as themselveS. No! It should come out as themselveZ, a way of saying that although ‘himself’ remains ‘himselF’ even in pronunciation, ‘ourselves’ also becomes ‘ourselveZ’.

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