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I'd like to understand the difference between "him" and "himself" in the following sentences:


collinsdictionary.com:
(1) He rallied his friends to help him.
I think "him" and "he" can refer to the same person, and (1) means:
(1a) He gathered his friends who could help him.
Am I right?
If not, then why not?


my variant:
(2) He rallied his friends to help himself.
I think (2) is correct and means:
(2a) He gathered his friends in order to help himself.
Am I right?
If not, then why not?


my variant:
(3) He rallied his friends in order to help him.
I think if "him" and "he" refer to the same person, then (3) is incorrect.
Am I right?
If not, then why not?


my variant:
(4) He rallied his friends in order to help himself.
I think (4) is correct and means the same as (2).
Am I right?
If not, then why not?


P.S.:
As I understood, "rallied" here means "gathered".
So since "gathered" is much more understandable to me, I replaced "rallied" with "gathered".

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  • 2
    Rallied means more than "gathered". It means to unite people by awakening in them a fervent desire to achieve a common goal.
    – TimR
    Dec 26, 2023 at 1:44

2 Answers 2

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The difference is that himself is reflexive. One might say, "He helped himself," referring back to the subject. E.G., "He helped himself to the food on the cart."

However, in "He rallied his friends to help himself," he is not helping himself, it's his friends who will be of help to him.

In "He gathered his friends in order to help himself," the reflexive pronoun makes sense, because it refers not to the person being helped, but to the reasoning for the action that person took.

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  • You wrote: "He gathered his friends in order to help himself" makes sense. In the other answer it's written that "He rallied his friends in order to help himself" is not good. That is, it makes sense with "gathered" but is not good with "rallied". Therefore, it's very important here what verb to use. Did I understand it correctly?
    – Loviii
    Dec 26, 2023 at 20:51
  • No, the difference is "in order to"; "He rallied his friends in order to help himself," is acceptable. Dec 26, 2023 at 22:18
  • "He rallied his friends in order to help him." — Could you tell me if it means to you "He rallied his friends to help him" or not?
    – Loviii
    Dec 28, 2023 at 21:19
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(1) He rallied his friends to help him. (2) He rallied his friends to help himself. (3) He rallied his friends in order to help him. (4) He rallied his friends in order to help himself.

The in order to versions mean the same as their corresponding infinitive versions.

In (1), him refers to he, and your interpretation is right.

In (2), with himself as opposed to themselves, the sentence is understood to mean the same as example(1). Reflexive pronouns used in this way should be for cases in which the subjects of the verbs are the same as the objects.
Here the understood "subject" of the infinitive help is his friends, and hence the sentence is not as clear.

If we must use the reflexive pronoun himself, maybe to emphasise that he did the rallying himself, we could say

He rallied his friends himself to help him.

He himself rallied his friends to help him.

Aside to this, if the intended parties to receive the help are his friends, then

He rallied his friends to help themselves.

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  • You wrote: "He rallied his friends in order to help himself" is not good. In the other answer it's written that "He gathered his friends in order to help himself" makes sense. That is, it is not good with "rallied" but makes sense with "gathered". Therefore, it's very important here what verb to use. Did I understand it correctly?
    – Loviii
    Dec 26, 2023 at 20:51
  • I've edited my answer slightly. My view about (2) being not as clear is the use of himself; the choice of rallied or gathered is not a factor although the words have different meanings. Dec 26, 2023 at 21:44

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