Reflexive pronouns: singular or plural?

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I understand the reflexive pronoun issue. My concern is whether it should be singular or plural. If "Everybody" is singular as I've always been taught, then shoudn't the reflexive pronoun be either "himself" or "herself" (or both as in "him/herself?")

What is the rule?

See example:

Everybody should prepare themselves for the oncoming onslaught.
asked Feb 10 '13 at 23:35 Loren Abbey New member

1 answer


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Loren,

 

You are right that everyone is singular.  Using himself or herself is awkward, and using himself only is sexist.  So, many writers would use themselves in a sentence like yours.  (The pronouns they and them are increasingly being used to refer to a singular subject, but some grammar experts don't like this evolution.)

 

However, I think the easy solution to your problem is to delete the reflexive pronoun altogether.  There is no meaningful difference between preparing for the oncoming onslaught and preparing himself for the oncoming onslaught.

 

One last suggestion:  oncoming onslaught sounds awkward because of the identical sounds at the beginning of these words.  The adjectives oncoming and coming both mean "approaching," so use coming instead.

 

    

link comment edited Feb 11 '13 at 04:00 Shawn Mooney Expert

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