Monday, December 7, 2009

Grammar Guru: Self pronouns

Dear Grammar Guru,

Why does grammar check on MS Word so often underline the words himself or herself?
Also, I wanted to say, “This time the gossip came from his own sister.” Again, there was the green underline for the word “own”.


Annoyed with Underlines

Dear Ms. Annoyed,

I can only speculate about MS Word's reason for underlining himself and herself. The -self pronouns may be either reflexive or intensive pronouns. They must have an antecedent--another noun or pronoun to refer to.

A reflexive pronoun is always the object of a verb, a preposition, or a verbal.


The dectective disguised himself. (Himself is the object of the verb disguised.)

He relied on himself to solve the mystery. (Himself is the object of the preposition on.)

Intensive pronouns provide emphasis to a preceding noun or pronoun.


He did the work himself. Himself emphasizes that no one helped him.

Do not use -self pronouns alone (without another noun or pronoun to refer to).

Correct: The detective and I talked. Incorrect: The dectective and myself talked. Myself has no noun or pronoun antecedent. Futhermore, myself is one of the subjects of talked. Would you say myself talked? Never!

Sometimes the -self pronouns are redundant. Try reading the sentence without the -self pronoun. Is it necessary?

You also asked about own in the sentence "This time the gossip came from his own sister." Own is redundant; his sister must obviously belong to him. So, omit own.
MSWord is a valuable tool, but it treats all documents as if they are business letters or academic papers.

Thanks for your questions. I hope these answers help.

Grammar Guru

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