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Fine-Tuning 14, Reflexive Pronouns

 
 
Roberta
 
Reply Sat 28 Jun, 2003 03:12 am
Many moons ago, Mac 11 asked me to cover reflexive pronouns. Sorry I took so long, Mac.

Reflexive pronouns are those that end in self or selves. They serve two purposes.

The first is to direct action (expressed by the verb) back to the subject.

I found myself alone on the road.
They had convinced themselves that they were right.

The second is to emphasize a noun or pronoun already expressed.

I myself will see to the arrangements.
They will take care of the arrangements themselves.

Note: Never use a reflexive pronoun unless the noun or pronoun it refers to is expressed in the same sentence.

She will make dinner for him and me. (not myself)
He and I (not myself) will finish the report tomorrow.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 3 • Views: 3,683 • Replies: 21
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Jun, 2003 03:51 pm
In the first Austin Powers film, Mike Myers says (for a laugh, of course): "Allow myself to introduce myself." The correct version should be: "Allow me to introduce myself."
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Jun, 2003 03:53 pm
HAA ! ! !

I found the one who's been amakin' all them rules . . .

Git her, boys . . .
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Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Jun, 2003 07:31 pm
Who? Me? I don't make up the rules. I'm just a messenger.
Help!!! Shocked
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Jun, 2003 08:50 pm
You just hit a sore spot, Roberta. I just hate reflexive pronouns used as appositives. I hate 'em. What does "I, myself" add to the statement.
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Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Jun, 2003 02:34 am
Roger, If I answer your question, will you help protect me from Setanta?

I, myself. This construction is more for emphasis than anything else. Just as in "That may well be," in which the well is for emphasis.

Sometimes, if you want emphasis and clarity, the apposition is necessary.

The doctors went in themselves to see what was happening in the operating room.

The doctors themselves went to see what was happening in the operating room. This is clearer, n'est pas?
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dupre
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Jun, 2003 02:56 am
Yea, Roberta! Thanks for this. I DO have problems with reflexive pronouns.

The simple definition really doesn't always apply, that being that it's a pronoun that refers back to the subject of the sentence or clause.

"I need to go by myself." OK . . . no problem there as an object of a preposition.

But consider

"She look behind her."

I so desperately want to put the pronoun in as reflexive, yet in the books I proofread, it never is. Well, never is strong. If there is another female, and there is some confusion as to which female she is looking behind, I suppose maybe then it's in the refexive. But why isn't it in the reflexive anyway?

"He closed the door behind him." Errrrrr! It should be himSELF, right?
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Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Jun, 2003 08:08 am
Dupre, Both the examples you cite do not require reflexive pronouns. You don't use them simply because there's another pronoun referring to the same person or thing in the same sentence. In both your examples, the pronoun is the object of a preposition and should be in the objective case.

The first reason to use reflexive pronouns is to direct action (expressed by the verb) back to the subject.

"She looked behind her." Her is correct here. It doesn't relate to the action or the subject. It's the object of the preposition behind.

"He closed the door behind him." Errrrrr! It should be himSELF, right? Wrong. Behind is a preposition, and him is the object of it.

I found myself alone on the road. In this example, myself relates to the action found and the subject I. On the road is a prepositional phrase.

They had convinced themselves that they were right. Here, again, you can see that the reflexive pronoun themselves refers to they the subject through the action of the verb had convinced.

Reflexive pronouns come up relatively infrequently. If the manuscript or proofs you're working on don't use them in a most cases, chances are the author is right.

I hope I've helped.
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mac11
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Jun, 2003 08:25 am
Thanks, Roberta.

I see a lot of misuse of reflexive pronouns. People seem to think that it's more correct to say "She brought dinner to Jack and myself." It truly makes me cringe. I've explained it many times to various folks.

Do you suppose this is an example of incorrect usage that will become accepted? I hope not!
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Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Jun, 2003 04:29 pm
Mac, It's hard to predict what will become accepted over the course of time. I'm guessing that the kind of mistake you cite won't be. It seems unlikely that something this fundamental would change. But quien sabe?
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dupre
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Jun, 2003 08:27 pm
Roberta, I wish it were really that simple, as in, a reflexive pronoun will not be the object of a preposition.

How about

"Get a hold OF yourself."

"I made a cake FOR myself."

"She talks TO herself."

I could accept the concept that the second two examples are indirect obects, that old dative case in Latin. But what about the first example?
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Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Jul, 2003 02:19 am
Dupre, You raise a good point. Clearly reflexive pronouns can be the object of a preposition. I'm going to have to contact an expert and get back to you.
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dupre
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Jul, 2003 05:20 am
Oh, thank you. It's been bothering for some time--years!--and I have checked some grammar sites with no real answer on this.

I've been beside myself with worry! Smile
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Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Jul, 2003 07:50 am
Hiya Dupre,

LOL Very Happy You're beside yourself, are you? Are you sure you're not beside you? Of course you are. I'm happy to report that my expert is as much of a night owl as I am. I sent him your questions and got the answer. Here it is:


"Get a hold of yourself." You is the implied subject of get. Yourself directs the action of the verb back to the subject.
"I made a cake for myself." The same explanation applies here . . .

"She talks to herself." . . . and here.

This part if from me: This reader had provided other examples in which the pronoun was the object of a preposition. I told the reader that the pronouns should be in the objective case for that reason. What do I tell her now? I'm not sure that you can say that these reflexive pronouns have a case. Some begin with a possessive pronoun attached to self (myself, yourself, yourselves), and some begin with the objective pronoun (himself, herself, themselves).

I think the real issue is whether to use the reflexive pronoun or an objective personal pronoun after a preposition in these sentences, and when you try to insert the latter, it becomes obvious how ludicrous the result is:

Get a hold of you. I made a cake for me. She talks to her.

I hope this is of some help. If it isn't, just tell the reader to do what you say, sit down, and shut up.


This man used to be my boss. He might tell me to do what he says, sit down, and shut up, but I won't tell you that.

I sincerely hope that this helps. I'm beginning to get the feeling that this is a subject that's hard to get a handle on. It may end up being as much instinctive as it is driven by rules.
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dupre
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Jul, 2003 07:58 am
Wow! Thanks for the quick answer!

It does get a little tricky when you want to emphasize the pronoun, as in

"He did close the door behind himSELF, but not behind the other person who came in; that's why the door is now open."

Not really a good example, but . . . there it is.

I thank you, myself (and didn't send someone else to do it for me).
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Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Jul, 2003 08:12 am
I'm glad that this helped.

The expert was no fun to work for but is great to have as a friend.
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dupre
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Jul, 2003 05:25 pm
Lol!
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Jul, 2003 11:44 pm
I tend, except of course when I actually post, to pick the right answers on these matters, and to the extent I do, it is from instinct, years of latin, years of reading, and also, that key factor...not thinking. However, I can learn no new languages because I think too much about grammar rules in them and apparently close my ears..

Ok, I can learn them a little, but not all is the same in another language, and I don't have the time to remember my own english grammar in order to understand a new one (gerunds in italian, say). Well, I love grammar, just whining here. But sounding right...after learning the rules, has a lot to do with speaking well or writing well. We need to say things the correct way enough to have the sounds sink in.
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Jul, 2003 12:01 am
What is the relevance of my post? I would have agreed with Expert based on sound. Why I goof up on many posts is that my sound monitor is off with fast typing and after work libation.

Not to go after Dupre, since nailing the understanding of the underlying grammar and then, through the nailing of it, repeating it to self a million times, makes it indelible... really nailing it is the first most important thing...which is what these grammar threads are all about.

When I learned, or didn't learn as the case may be, italian, I would understand myriads of grammatical explanations and then somehow not gather them into my mainbrain. I can't begin to tell what is right there, by sound.

Reflexive usage seems to be a practice that could imbed itself in our brains by sound; I think that happens.
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Roberta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Jul, 2003 12:31 am
Hi Osso, Knowing a language as a native speaker enables us to tap an instinctive understanding of the fundamental rightness or wrongness of something. Learning another language as an adult is so hard that I often wonder how anyone can do it. My work with immigrants has shown me just how difficult it is. However, I also think that some people are simply better at languages than others. Genetics? Brain hook-up? Who knows. I studied Spanish for six years. It was my college language requirement. Then I studied French for two years and Italian for one year--just for fun. Some people I knew who struggled mightily with languages thought I was nuts. One of the problems with studying a language is just that--studying a language. Just as you said, you get far too caught up in grammar and rules. I think the best way to learn a language is to speak it. At least that's what I tell my students.
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