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An American guy introduced a book, written by himself and published this year, and then said like this in an online video.

"If you're interested, if you want to hear more like this, definitely pick yourself up a copy!"

Actually, he said this in Japanese and showed this English sentence in the subs. My native language is Japanese, so I know what he meant. He was suggesting to the audience that they read the book, if my understanding is correct.

However, the English sentence makes me confused. I know the meanings of "pick something up," "pick up something," "pick someone up," and "pick oneself up," because they are all in dictionaries. But I've never learned this pattern, "pick oneself up something," and can't find how to understand this pattern of the phrase.

Here are my questions.

  1. How is "yourself" working in this phrase? Why aren't "pick a copy up" and "pick up a copy" enough to express the speaker's intention?

  2. Is "pick yourself up a copy" a common way to say in this kind of situation? If not, what do people usually say instead of using this phrase?

  3. What is the nuance of "pick yourself up a copy"? Does this phrase imply "have the book," "buy the book," or just "try reading the book?"

  4. What is the impression? Is this a nice way to say? Is it cool, cheerful, polite, funny, creative, young or cute?

  5. Is this guys' speaking? Don't women say "pick yourself up a copy"?

  6. Is this American English? Is it okay to use this phrase in British English communication?

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    This is one of the best-written questions I've seen on ELL for some time. Thanks for taking the time to write it with such care and attention-to-detail. – J.R. Aug 23 '15 at 12:50
  • Thank you for the nice feedback. I really wanted to know if I and my friends can use this phrase in our situations, and now I think we can. I am very thankful for the excellent answers which are very interesting and practical. – HiruneDiver Aug 23 '15 at 18:45
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The verb "pick [up]" is transitive and can have more than one object. It is used (here) similarly to such verbs as "get" or "give" or "gather" or any other synonyms.

Curiously enough, the order of the objects is not rigidly set for those verbs. However, often with other verbs we see the indirect object used with a preposition:

"Give yourself a bonus" (no preposition) vs "Give a bonus to yourself" (the indirect object 'yourself' is used with a preposition)

The phrasal verb "pick up" allows placing objects between the verb and the preposition, like "pick it up please" vs "pick up the pace, buddy!" However only one object can be placed there, I think. You can't grammatically say "pick yourself a copy up".

To "pick something up" can mean "find it and take possession of it", and it can mean just "take something in your hand". In this case owning a copy is likely suggested.

Since I am not exposed much to British English nowadays, I can't really say that it's specific to Am.English, although it's not that unusual, and I would venture a guess that it exists in BE too.

No, it's not gender specific.

No special mood is expressed in this phrase. It's rather casual, yes, but not a joke or a jeer.

  • I'm deeply grateful for the excellent comprehensive answer. Now I see what made me confused. I imagined the action "pick oneself up" literally, but it's wrong. The example sentences and substitutes like "get" or "give" are so helpful to understand the phrase. And it's really good to know it's not gender specific, not only American English and doesn't cause any too-special impression. Thank you very much! – HiruneDiver Aug 23 '15 at 18:36
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SUPPLEMENTAL to Victor Bazarov's answer

That answer gives an excellent explanation of the syntax of the phrase; I'm just adding some observations on the rhetoric involved.

Pick up is basically equivalent to get or obtain. It's a very casual, colloquial synonym; the author is trying to sustain a conversational, personal, friend-to-friend atmosphere.

Pick up also suggests that obtaining the book involves very little effort, no more than picking it up off a table. For instance, we feel little hesitation in asking a friend to pick something up for us when he announces he's visiting a particular store: that's a very minor imposition. The author is trying to make obtaining the book sound as easy as possible.

Pick up says nothing about how you obtain the book: whether you buy it or borrow it or steal it. And that's one of the points—the author is carefully avoiding telling you to do what he wants, which is for you to purchase it. He wants you to focus on the benefit obtaining the book provides you, not the benefit to him—or the cost to you.

The same consideration underlies the introduction of yourself. The indirect object is the beneficiary of the action. The author wants to make you feel that you are the beneficiary, that buying his book is a favor you do yourself.

  • I'm deeply grateful for the detailed explanations of the nuance and the author's consideration. The substitutes "get" and "obtain" also really help me understand what this "pick up" actually means. I'm happy to know that "pick yourself up a copy" is a casual phrase in a nice way. "The indirect object is the beneficiary of the action" totally makes sense. Now I understand and can feel why "yourself" is used. Thank you very much! – HiruneDiver Aug 23 '15 at 18:38
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"Pick up a copy" is perfectly normal in British English. To me, it sounds a bit strange with the reflexive "yourself" inserted; that might be slightly more American and, I think, somewhat more informal. "Pick up a copy for yourself" would seem more normal to me, in British English but, since "for yourself" is implied anyway (surely the speaker would have specified who the copy was for, if it wasn't for you), I'd just leave it out.

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    It's very good to know that "Pick up a copy" can be used without "yourself" to express almost the same meaning. I will avoid using "yourself" in the phrase, if I have a chance to say it in British English communication. Thank you very much! – HiruneDiver Aug 24 '15 at 16:36
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    @HiruneDiver If you did include "yourself" while speaking to a British person, they'd still know exactly what you meant. – David Richerby Aug 24 '15 at 17:32
  • I'm relieved to hear that because what I'm afraid of is misunderstanding. I truly appreciate your help. – HiruneDiver Aug 25 '15 at 13:17
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It's one way of saying "buy this book!" without using the command "buy", which might be too direct and therefore counterproductive.

"Pick up", in this case, is a synonym of "get". "Pick up" should be treated more as a phrasal verb. "Up" should not be interpreted literally here, the way you might pick up a coin from the floor. You could, for instance, reserve a book at the library and pick it up when it's ready for you.

The author doesn't want you to simply borrow the book from the library. He wants you to get your own copy, hence the use of yourself. The use of yourself as an indirect object is, in my opinion, awkward, but I wouldn't say that it's wrong. I would say that it's more colloquial, though. (The use of "If …, if …" instead of "If …, and …" also contributes to the impromptu feeling.) The sentence would probably be more formally and clearly worded as

If you're interested, and you want to hear more like this, definitely pick up a copy for yourself!

  • Thank you very much for making the difference between the literal meaning and the this-case meaning of the phrase clear. The formal version of the sentence also helps me understand it better, because the grammar patterns in it are more familiar to me than the casual version of the sentence above. – HiruneDiver Aug 24 '15 at 16:37

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