Which of the following sentences has correct comma usage?

a) They themselves can state their feelings.

b) They themselves, can state their feelings.

c) They, themselves, can state their feelings.

  • 1
    Regardless of which one has correct comma usage, there is no need for the reflexive in that sentence. It reads like this sentence was taken from one of Bush's speeches- never a good sign. – Parthian Shot Mar 24 '15 at 21:38
  • @ParthianShot, this isn't a reflexive pronoun: it's an intensive one. – Anonym Mar 25 '15 at 1:11
  • 2
    @Anonym You're half right; it's both. Still, putting the intensive pronoun right next to the noun it's intesifying has always bugged me. I want that usage to die out. And if the comments section is not my venue to dispense soapbox judgment on how English ought to be used, then what, really, is it for? – Parthian Shot Mar 25 '15 at 1:18

The following option poses no confusion in my mind, and I wouldn't anticipate confusion in the mind of a native speaker:

a) They themselves can state their feelings.

The supporting data of the corpus suggests that the expression they themselves is not usually separated by a comma, and since it is the subject of the verbal phrase can state, it should not be separated from the predicate with a comma.

Themselves is a reflexive pronoun, and in the phrase they themselves, it is an intensive form, which is always treated as a restrictive appositive that is not offset with a comma.

Note that they all have reflexive and intensive forms which depends on where they are in the sentence.

Jim bought himself a book (reflexive)
Jim himself bought a book (intensive)
Asjad brought himself a book (reflexive)
Asjad himself brought a book (intensive)

Intensive pronouns usually appear right near the subject of the sentence.


I think you should just get rid of "themselves," and the problem is solved. Otherwise, b is definitely wrong, and c doesn't feel right either, so I'd go with a.

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