Here's the original quote from Socrates:

Let he who would move the world, first move himself.

I'm thinking a non-gender specific version would be:

Let they who would move the world, first move themselves.

Or should it be theirselves?

  • 1
    Theirself is not an English word.
    – user140086
    Dec 11, 2015 at 16:40
  • 3
    Let them who would move the world, first move themselves.
    – Jim
    Dec 11, 2015 at 17:16
  • 3
    'Let him who ...' rather than 'Let he who ...' is the accepted if very formal version (unless it's changed recently). Dec 11, 2015 at 17:50
  • 2
    I'd go with "Let those who would move the world first move themselves."
    – Hellion
    Dec 11, 2015 at 18:28
  • 4
    @BillJ The stated task is to make it gender-neutral; singularity is not required that I can see. :-) So, de-gendering by pluralization seems appropriate (and English is still ill-equipped for a gender-neutral singular construction anyway).
    – Hellion
    Dec 11, 2015 at 19:02

3 Answers 3


If you're OK with shifting to a plural formulation, I'd suggest:

Let those who would move the world, first move themselves.

(Though I see in one of your comments that you "prefer a more modern adjustment"? In that case, you might also want to change "would" to "wish to"; the use of "would" to express desire is fairly old-fashioned.)


It's more of a grammatical divergence from the original than other proposals, but I'd suggest "To move the world, first move yourself."

Yes, it's not the original, but the whole premise was not to keep the original. So changing to second person seems like a good way to arrive at something not sounding contrived.

  • 'move yourself' sounds too informal to me. Dec 13, 2015 at 17:51

It is simple:

Let one who would move the world, first move oneself.

  • 4
    For some reason, "oneself" sounds totally wrong in this sentence.
    – fdb
    Dec 12, 2015 at 23:43
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    @fdb I agree that "oneself" sonds totally wrong here. I wish one of the experts would explain why. After all, "one must move oneself before trying to move the world" sounds OK to me. Dec 13, 2015 at 0:53
  • I agree this is a correct way to state the phrase, but I prefer a more modern adjustment, whereas this makes it sound ancient. Dec 13, 2015 at 17:52
  • One does not use the pronoun "one" like that. In the quoted sentence, "one" is not the impersonal pronoun, but an ordinary noun. For the relevant reflexive pronoun to use at the end of the sentence, I suggest "themself".
    – Rosie F
    Oct 17, 2019 at 18:25

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