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I was writing a message recently and I noticed that I had reflexively (probably trying to sound more official) written:

It should be done by either Klavs or yourself.

instead of

It should be done by either Klavs or you.

I searched for sources on the difference between "you" and "yourself" but I've only found explanations that "yourself" is a reflexive/intensive pronoun, while "you" is a personal pronoun. It seems to me like in my case, I was trying to use "yourself" as a personal pronoun. This should be technically wrong, but both sentences "feel" correct to me - the former just looks more official.

Would you definitively describe such use of "yourself" as either correct or not? Is there a source to confirm it?

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    In your cited context, reflexive yourself, myself, himself etc., are just "emphatic" versions of you, me, him. Using them is a stylistic choice. Apr 18, 2023 at 10:53
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    Reflexive pronouns are inflected forms of the personal pronouns, i.e. they are a sub-type of personal pronoun. The reflexive is optional in your example.
    – BillJ
    Apr 18, 2023 at 11:00
  • Certainly the emphatic use of "yourself" is in dictionaries, e.g. Merriam-Webster.
    – Stuart F
    Apr 18, 2023 at 11:14
  • "Jill, Klavs, Peter or Ben could do it, boss." ... "It should be done by either Klavs or yourself." // "Peter and Ben say that Klavs and I aren't the right people for this job, boss." ... "Nonsense. It should be done by either Klavs or you." // Note that intensive usages ("We saw the archduke himself!" / "The people I want on this job are Ali and yourself.") are different from reflexive usages ("He washed himself in the stream.") Apr 18, 2023 at 11:14
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    To use "yourself" emphatically, it's usually also required that you use the word "you" in the sentence. So, you could say "It should be done by Klavs, or you yourself" - the word yourself here is emphatic, not a reflexive pronoun. I don't think it's right to use yourself as you did in the first example. I've seen people do this because they think it sounds more official/formal, but it's not. It's a mistake. Check this article on the subject.
    – Billy Kerr
    Apr 18, 2023 at 13:12

1 Answer 1

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Yes, it is correct. Reflexive pronouns can be used for various reasons - to sound more formal, for emphasis, or for clarity.

One of many reasons for writing 'you' reflexively is that it can also be used as a pronoun for a group of people (eg "you all") or for people in general. When assigning tasks, as your example appears to be about, saying "you should do it" could refer to a team that you belong to or be a general instruction for anyone undertaking the task, whereas saying you should do it yourself is more specifically putting the responsibility on you as an individual.

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  • In the OP's example, 'yourself' is not a reflexive pronoun; it is simply an emphatic variant of 'you'. But I take your point about 'yourself' being unambiguously singular; I had not thought of that!
    – TonyK
    Apr 18, 2023 at 16:41
  • @TonyK Of course it's a reflexive pronoun; what else could it be?
    – BillJ
    Apr 19, 2023 at 7:04

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