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Oneself vs. One’s Self

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  Marius Alza  —  Grammar Tips
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Oneself vs. One's self 

Some English words can be very tricky, because they sound and are spelled almost identically. You can often meet this problem with "oneself" and "one's self", for example, even though they should be used in completely different contexts.

Let's see which word and when you should use, so that you won't be confused next time you wonder whether you should spell it as one or two words.

Oneself vs. One's self

"Oneself" is the reflexive form of the pronoun "one", used to refer to the person who is speaking. It refers to the own person of the subject and it can easily replace "it", when trying to avoid using words that indicate the genre (such as "he" or "she"). As a pronoun, it can also be used when you refer to people in general.

"One's self", on the other hand, is used more rarely and it is definitely not a reflexive pronoun, which makes it wrong to consider that "oneself" and "one's self" are replaceable. Actually, "one's" is a possessive pronoun in this context, referring to a person different than the subject/speaker. Moreover, "one's self" is generally used in a spiritual/psychological context, describing a person's "self". We'll make this clearer in the examples below!

When do we use "oneself"?

You should only use "oneself" as a reflexive pronoun, in sentences referring to the person who is speaking or to people in general:

Example: How is someone going to accept oneself in the context of bullying and discrimination? - referring to the subject, to "someone", or to people in general.

When do we use "one's self"?

You are mostly supposed to use "one's self" in psychological or spiritual contexts only, when referring to the "self" of someone, as in the following example:

Example: While helping others think positive, one should not forget to do positive things for one's self. - it is used in a spiritual context, almost as it would be referring to a different, individual "self" or being.


Even though they might look similar, "oneself" and "one's self" are definitely not replaceable or used in very similar contexts. "Oneself" is always a reflexive pronoun, while "one's self" is used in a possessive sense, usually in psychological contexts. Remember this in order to identify which one to use in each situation.

Oneself vs. One’s Self

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"Oneself vs. One’s Self." STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 8 Apr. 2020. <’s_self>.

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