1. I bought a sweater for myself.
  2. I don't have any money with me.

My books tell me that I cannot use a reflexive pronoun in #2 because the preposition in that sentence has "a purely local meaning."

What does that mean?


A preposition has "a purely local meaning" in a particular context if the pronoun following it can only refer back to the subject. In other words, me is the only pronoun that makes sense after with in the context you cite. It makes no sense to say:

I don't have any money with him.

He doesn't have any money with me.

In such contexts it is not usual to use a reflexive pronoun. Here are further examples:

You have your whole life ahead of you.

She ran out, slamming the door behind her.

The reflexive pronoun is usual, conversely, in contexts in which the subject and prepositional pronoun complement could indeed refer sensibly to different people. For example:

I bought a sweater for her.

She doesn't look after him properly.

In such cases, the preposition does not have a "purely local meaning", and if the subject and prepositional pronoun complement are indeed the same person, then that pronoun is most usually a reflexive:

I bought a sweater for myself.

She doesn't look after herself properly.


Perhaps it is saying that the meaning is only relevant to the position at that moment.

It is not the case that you have 'no money', it is just that you don't have any with you at the moment.

If you said 'I don't myself have any money', or 'I don't have any money myself', the implication would be that you didn't have any money at all, anywhere.

The fact that you don't have any with you is purely 'local' to the place and time.

However, I am not 100% clear on what they are saying because I would not see anything wrong with:

'I don't myself have any money with me'.


Local means 'having to do with place or position'.

A local preposition is one that refers to place or position, like on, at, over, with.
Similarly, temporal prepositions refer to time, like until, before, during.

These are adverbial phrases, and don't function as subject or object of the predicate.
Many prepositions are used to indicate such grammatical relations,

  • He gave it to that guy over there. To indicates indirect object.
  • They stepped on her coat. On indicates direct object.
  • He was arrested by a policeman. By indicates former subject.

but not local or temporal prepositions. That's all, really.

  • It must be more complicated than that. You would say "he cast the spell on himself", and "I don't have any money on me". How do you know when "on" indicates an indirect object? Feb 17 '14 at 19:20
  • It has to do with grammatical relations, like I said; in cast the spell on him_, I'd say him is the IO, but it's a nonstandard preposition (like for in dig a clam for him) and doesn't necessarily undergo Dative. But on me is close to a fixed phrase and they don't like reflexivization so much. Feb 17 '14 at 19:20

Quote: My books tell me that I cannot use a reflexive pronoun in #2 because the preposition in that sentence has "a purely local meaning."

The book is right in saying that in such sentences as no. 2 the refexive pronoun is not used. But the argument in the clause with "because" is absurd. The author does not know why that is so and he invents something out of thin air.

The reason for "with me" instead of "with myself" might be a simple shortening.

This explanation with the hint at "local prepositions" can be found in several grammars. In a sentence such as "The speaker placed his notes before him" the indication "before him" is indeed a where/where-to indication.

But in "He shut the door after him" it is the question whether one would regard "after him" as a where-indication. So it seems someone has come up with the explanation of local prepositions and since then this was repeated.

The real reason might be something else and more simpler. In a lot of cases English renounces to use the reflexive pronoun, especially after verbs. So one might assume that English renounces to use these pronouns when the reflexive sense is self-evident.

  • I believe this is the correct answer! There is a good wikipedia article on the reflexive pronoun here. And, from a quick read through it becomes apparent.
    – David M
    Feb 17 '14 at 20:36
  • The wikipedia article does not mention the cases where English renounces to use reflexive pronouns. The article is very academic but I would not say it is good. It does not even mention such structures as "I myself have done it." It is an article compiled from academic sources but doesn't give any understanding of the uses and problems of English reflexive pronouns.
    – rogermue
    Feb 17 '14 at 21:19
  • Quiet, I'm on your side ... :-)
    – David M
    Feb 17 '14 at 21:53
  • I downvoted because of multiple misspellings and phrases like “renounces to use” but will readily reverse that if those are fixed. Sep 22 '14 at 14:50

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