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I often find sentences similar to the following:

You should use this book to help you with the grammar that you find difficult.

To me, the above is more or less equivalent to this one:

You should use this book so that you can help yourself with the grammar that you find difficult.

Why do we have 'you' instead of 'yourself' in the former sentence?

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Let's consider this example:

A killed B -> here the subject(the doer of the action) is different from the object (receiver of the action)

A killed A -> here the subject (the doer of the action) is the same as the object (receiver of the action)

in this case we say: A killed himself. we call himself a reflexive pronoun. reflexive pronouns as I mentioned are used when the subject (doer) and the object (receiver) of an action are the same.

in your example,

You should use this book to help you with the grammar that you find difficult.

consider the infinite phrase "to help you with...", the implied subject of this phrase would be "the book", which is the subject(doer) of "help" (action), finally the receiver of the action would be "you". as you can see, the doer and the receiver are NOT the same person/thing, so a reflexive pronoun cannot be used. thus using "yourself" in the first sentence is definitely ungrammatical.

the second sentence is different though

You should use this book so that you can help yourself with the grammar that you find difficult.

here the subject of the bold part is "you", the verb (action) would be "help" and the receiver of the action would be, well, "you" since you are helping yourself! so the receiver and the doer are the same, thus it IS possible to use a reflexive pronoun.

was this helpful?

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  • While I understand the idea in general, I still fail to understand why using "yourself" in the first sentence is definitely ungrammatical. In other words I don't understand why we say that the implied subject is "the book" and why that subject can't be "you". For instance in the following sentence I think the implied subject is "he" (not "the course"): "He took the course to get a better job". – Karolini Mar 27 '20 at 12:17
  • And what do you think of this sentence: "You should use this book so as to help yourself with the grammar that you find difficult"? Is it still ungrammatical? – Karolini Mar 27 '20 at 12:20
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I believe both sentences are grammatically correct. To me, the only thing that is different is a very slight change in emphasis. The second sentence gives a slightly stronger emphasis on how using the book can help you. The second sentence also sounds slightly more formal to me. However, I believe the preference between these two sentences is personal, and it is quite likely that others may feel differently about the sentences than I do.

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  • But if we had '...so that you can help you...' in the second sentence it wouldn't be considered as grammatically correct. So, why do we have 'you' instead of 'yourself' in the first sentence? – Karolini Feb 11 '19 at 21:56
  • @Karolini - You could have "yourself" instead of "you" in the first sentence, as in "You should use this book to help yourself with the grammar that you find difficult." As this form is also valid, I think it is up to the speaker's preference as to which form is chosen. – sbutkovi Feb 11 '19 at 22:00
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    I understand, but what I am trying to say is that we can use 'you' or 'yourself' in the first sentence but only 'yourself' (not 'you') fits in the second sentence. Why is that? – Karolini Feb 11 '19 at 22:08
  • @Karolini - Good question. I don't know the official answer. All I know is that it "sounds" right to have "yourself" instead of "you" - perhaps it is the sort of situation where "you" could be grammatically correct, but because nobody uses it like that, it sounds incorrect. – sbutkovi Feb 11 '19 at 22:16

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