Distinguishing between similar-sounding words proves challenging. “Selfs” and selves fall under this category. They are both used to denote the plural of self.

There is an ongoing debate about which of the two terms is grammatically correct. However, the correct formal term is selves, while “selfs” is informal. 

What is “self”?

Self is a noun used to describe a person’s nature and individuality, for example, “My true self.” Self can also be used as a pronoun, such as in the sentence “She loves to express herself openly.”

Used in combination with other words, “self” can form an adjective. An example is “He is a self-driven individual.”

Why is “selves” formal?

“Selves” is widely accepted as the plural of self. In trusted English dictionaries such as the Oxford dictionary, “selves” is listed as the only plural of “self”.

It is used in sentences such as “We cooked the food ourselves,” “The teachers always find their selves overworked,” and “Her parents closely resemble their younger selves in this picture.”

Himself/ Herself
Themselves/ Their selves

Why is selfs informal?

“Selfs” is the informal plural version of self. The word self is in line with English grammar rules, which recommend the addition of ‘s’ to express plural status.

However, there are exceptions to this rule, and most people believe that the addition of ‘s’ to self is one of them.

It is thus recommended to discontinue the use of “selfs” unless in informal settings. For example, “We have to attend the wedding ourselfs” is informal and is much rather replaced with “We have to attend the wedding ourselves.”

Likewise, “They are fortunate to have discovered their true “selfs” during the retreat” is the informal version of “They are fortunate to have discovered their true selves during the retreat.”

Final thoughts

The choice of using selves or “selfs” ultimately comes down to the setting. In formal settings such as board meetings, school work, and more, it is recommended to use selves, the widely accepted plural version of self.

This portrays professionalism and maintains the English language standard. Conversely, in informal settings such as casual conversations with friends and family, using “selfs” to indicate plural is tolerable.

However, be careful not to mix up the two terms as they are similar. Instead, it would be best to use selves in all settings (formal and informal) to minimize the risk of confusion.

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