Even among yourselves there will surely be differences and variances.

Or should I use 'you' here?


Yourselves here is OK in colloquial use, but formally incorrect.

Reflexive pronouns (myself, yourself, yourselves, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, themselves) should be used for an object (direct or indirect) which is identical with the subject of the verb.

In your sentence, the subject is the dummy adverb/pronoun there, so yourselves would be improper here. The object should be you. Yourselves would be proper if you changed the subject to you. For instance:

Even among yourselves you will surely encounter differences and variances


Pronouns in this set include the following:

  • In standard use: myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves

  • thyself (archaic), hisself (dialect), ourself (rare, paired with royal "we"), theirselves (dialect)

Although these are called reflexive pronouns, they have more than one function:

  1. As reflexive pronouns. In a clause where the subject and object refer to the same thing, the object can be expressed with one of the these words:

    He hit himself on the head.

    This is called reflexive usage.

  2. As emphatic pronouns. These words can serve to emphasize the subject:

    He ate all the cookies himself.
    I myself believe he is telling the truth.

    The grammatical distinction here is that the emphatic pronoun can be removed, but a reflexive pronoun cannot:

    *He hit on the head. (ungrammatical)
    He ate all the cookies.
    I believe he is telling the truth.

    In the first example above, removing himself makes the sentence ungrammatical, so we can conclude that the use is reflexive. In the second and third, we removed himself and myself, but the sentences still work, so in these sentences the uses are emphatic.

    In both 1 and 2 above, these words refer back to the subject. That is, they require an antecedent, and it must be in the same clause.

    Let's look at one more example:

    Go to the store yourself.

    In this sentence, there is an implied subject you (as in most imperatives), making the sentence grammatical.

  3. Non-anaphoric uses. Many prescriptivists consider 1 and 2 above to be the only correct uses. That is, they believe these words require a same-clause antecedent. Therefore, you might want to limit yourself to the uses above, particularly if your work is being graded or if you're taking an English test.

    The reality, however, is somewhat more complicated. When these words are used non-anaphorically, they're almost always stressed, emphasizing either the first- or second-person. Many speakers consider your sentence acceptable, and I'm one of them:

    Even among yourselves there will surely be differences and variances.

    And you'll find examples like this in both speech and literature, though it's widely condemned by usage mavens as incorrect. Perhaps surprisingly, this usage is most common in formal English, and it's my opinion that it is acceptable in modern formal writing. However, you might come across an editor who disagrees, and to be safe I'd avoid this sort of usage in English classes and on English tests.

    Note that this usage is most common in the first- and second-person, not third-. There are a number of collocations which trigger this sort of usage (such as myself, such as yourself), and these collocations generally do not accept the third-person (*such as itself and *such as themselves). If I change your example to the third-person, it no longer sounds acceptable to me:

    *Even among themselves, there will surely be differences and variances.

    The above doesn't fit into one of the accepted uses, so (to me) it sounds like a hypercorrection (a type of error).

  4. Long-distance uses. Lastly, there are so-called long-distance uses, in which the reflexive pronoun does have an antecedent, but it's not in the same clause. These are acceptable to some speakers, but not to most, so I'd avoid using them, especially in formal writing.

In this answer, the * symbol means that I find a sentence unacceptable.

  • Please modify your usage of "prescriptivists" by always adding "some" or "many" or "most". Without such a modifier, that kind of statement is nothing but stereotypical put-down of everyone who ventures an opinion (makes a judgment) about usage, which even you do in your final sentence when you advise the OP to avoid long-distance uses of reflexive pronouns. Advice is a prescription, but no one has to take it. Only automated mounted cameras not controlled by humans are pure descriptivists, & even they're selective because they see everything from only one POV. – user264 May 19 '13 at 17:37
  • @BillFranke It was intended to mean the following: if you want your usage to be prescriptively correct, limit yourself to uses 1 and 2. I thought this would be helpful because people value prescriptive advice, not because I wanted to insult people who offer it. (I did add the word "some" as you requested, however.) By the way, descriptive linguists certainly have opinions about usage and will quite often share them when asked. An observation is descriptive if it describes actual usage; descriptivism does not mean "everything is correct". – user230 May 19 '13 at 17:58
  • 1
    Thank you for adding a modifier. I don't want to get into the Pre-/De-scriptivism debate: it's a dead end between the rock of idiosyncratic aesthetics (Lowth) & the hard place of ersatz-egalitarian politics (Pullum). Most alleged rules of English are specious & unjustified prescriptions that increase anxiety but don't help communication; some are useful, eg, "If it works, it's good", "If you want to be clearly understood, say A, B, or C, but not D", & "Say what you mean, & mean what you say". Beyond that, everything gets iffy & case-by-case-y. – user264 May 20 '13 at 0:19

You would be the correct word here. Yourselves is a reflexive pronoun, so it is meant to be used only when the person(s) being addressed is also doing the action being suggested (e.g. Feel free to talk among yourselves.)

In this sentence you are saying that the differences and variances will exist ("will surely be"). If you were to say "You will create differences among yourselves." The use of the reflexive pronoun would be appropriate as the you would be doing the creating.

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