1. John Carlo
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    John Carlo New Member

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    Proper use for "himself", help please!!

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by John Carlo, Jun 17, 2010.

    Hey all,
    Microsoft Word often underlines the word "himself" in my writing. I'm thinking I'm not using it right. Here's the sentence, "So when it was his turn to approach a vendor, he first asked if the secret had to be about himself."

    What's wrong with using "himself" in this sentence?

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  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies iModerate Staff Member Supporter Contributor

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    Word is unhappy with your usage because himself is a reflexive pronoun.

    He hurt himself.
    He did it himself.
    He accidentally called himself on his cell phone.


    The structure of your sentence is not reflexive. Now, do we use the word himself the way you have shown in our everyday speech? Yes, yes we do, though it is wrong.

    The reflexive pronouns are also used in an emphatic sense, but the structure required is very particular. You would need to first use the uninflected pronoun and then the reflexive pronoun together.

    Like this:

    "So when it was his turn to approach a vendor, he first asked if the secret had to be about he himself."
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It isn't really wrong in this case. Word's grammar checker has to operate from limited semantic knowledge, so it's appropriate to mark the use of the reflexive pronoun for a second look.

    Consider this variant:
    Now, the subject must be asking if the secret has to be about the (presumably male) vendor, in which case the use of the reflexive pronoun is incorrect.

    Semantically, Word cannot assume the reflexive pronoun in the original sentence was intended to mean the subject of the sentence, even though it is obvious to us. Therefore, it marks it for you to take a second look, just to make sure.

    EDIT: Sorry, Wrey, I must disagree. the subjective pronoun he does not belong in the object of a preposition. But him himself would not work either. The original sentence works, as the reflexive pronoun does connect to the subject pronoun of the sentence.
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Supporter Contributor

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    cog is right... only 'him' would be correct there, but to make good sense and not confuse the issue, if the vendor is male, you should leave out 'to approach the vendor'... and to avoid a surfeit of pronouns, i'd change either 'his' or 'he' to the character's name... so something like this would be much clearer:

    or do it in dialog:

  5. John Carlo
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    John Carlo New Member

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    Thank you all for the clarification. Mammamaia, I particularly like your second suggestion - a much more compelling sentence in my opinion. I just might use it.
  6. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Senior Member Contributor

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    Well, I was gonna say 'himself' is a reflexive pronoun - YOU are doing the action and the person to/for whom you are doing it is YOU but Wreybies beat me to it.
    But, consider the nature of reflexives and it should help you understand when and why to use them. One performs the action upon or for one's self. Since, in your example, someone else is doing the action, it is not something 'he' is doing to or for himself. Therefor, it is not reflexive - turning back on self. The correct usage should be "him".

    WAIT A MINUTE! Upon rereading the sentence, it actually might be correct. Is "HE" the one sharing the secret? Is it a secret about 'him' shared BY 'him'? Then you really are using the correct word and ... Word screwed it up again!
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Supporter Contributor

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    feel free, jc!... glad to help... hugs, m

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