I am writing a small essay and I am confused about how to how to properly express this particular sentence below:

Chapter 11 begins with the saint chastising the king who was thinking himself to be very intelligent.

My Microsoft Word 2010 said 'himself' should be 'he' like below:

Chapter 11 begins with the saint chastising the king who was thinking he to be very intelligent.

Once I changed it as above, the word then said it should be 'him' and not 'he':

Chapter 11 begins with the saint chastising the king who was thinking him to be very intelligent.

At this point it doesn't complain any more. Is this the right way to use? I want to express that the king was thinking himself to be intelligent but I am not sure if that meaning comes out with him. I would appreciate some explanation on the correct usage and if possible may be some general rules around this.

  • This may help: [ell.stackexchange.com/questions/8743/… Oct 17, 2014 at 17:27
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    This is a good example of why you should turn off the so-called "grammar checker" on MSWord. It's junk, and in this case it's totally wrong. If you must use it, be sure to ignore it. I would put a comma after king in the sentence, to make sure the relative clause would be read as non-restrictive (there's only one king involved, I feel sure). But the reflexive is perfectly correct grammatically where it is, and no other coreferential pronoun would be. It's undergone B-Raising and is now a clausemate of, and coreferential to, the king, and therefore must be a reflexive. Oct 17, 2014 at 17:33
  • @StoneyB, thank you for that link and strengthening my lack of faith in MS Word grammar checker:) Oct 17, 2014 at 17:39
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    @John: Yes, but it's not so much that one should turn off the grammar checker. People need to understand that it's not there to teach correct usage. It's just a fairly crude mechanism for identifying potential slip-ups. Competent writers may often deliberately use "unusual" constructions that get erroneously flagged - but they're not likely to be intimidated by a bit of dumb software. Incompetent (non-native) speakers may need to use other resources to confirm whether what they've written is a genuine "mistake" or not. Oct 17, 2014 at 17:49
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    My general rule with grammar checkers like that is to re-read any sentence they flag, in case I actually did mess up something, then, finding no problem, ignore the flag. I don't try to figure out why they flagged it.
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 17, 2014 at 18:52

1 Answer 1


Posting an answer using the comment by JohnLawler so I can close this. There is nothing wrong with using 'himself' in the sentence but adding a comma after the king would make it better.

Chapter 11 begins with the saint chastising the king, who was thinking himself to be very intelligent

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