Although the rule was made by ....., the director rarely enforced it.

Should it be "him" or "himself"?

  • In my opinion, it should be himself because he set the rule by himself . The answer in the book is Him so I do not understand why. THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP.
    – Gwang21
    Jan 24, 2016 at 6:53
  • 1
    @Gwang21 You are overthinking this. The reflexive form himself is not really necessary unless the subject is the same person. In your sentence, the subject is the rule.
    – user140086
    Jan 24, 2016 at 7:13
  • @David Blomstrom Ok, take your point, but reflexive pronouns are available for emphasis. If I really wanted to be emphatic about someone failing to enforce their own rule I would probably say Although he, himself, set the rule he rarely enforces it.
    – WS2
    Jan 24, 2016 at 10:25

1 Answer 1


You can use either word. If you use him, there is the potential for ambiguity - the person who set (made) the rule might be the director, or he might be some other male, although this might be clarified in the broader context. If you use himself, it's pretty clear that the director is the one who set the rule.

  • I totally agree with you, Lawrence. Thank you so much. 😀😀
    – Gwang21
    Jan 24, 2016 at 6:54
  • @Gwang21 Happy to help :) . See also this link relating to pronouns coming before their nouns - your sentence is similar to sentence (b) in the link.
    – Lawrence
    Jan 24, 2016 at 6:55
  • Hi @Rathony. As a sentence on its own, I can see your point (come to think of it, it's also Araucaria's point in the link in my earlier comment). But in the context of other sentences, that's not always the case. Consider the him version preceded by a sentence: "The lawyer set some the company's rules. Although the rule was set by him, the director rarely enforced it." This makes him refer to the lawyer, not the director. With the himself version, the preceding sentence doesn't matter - himself still refers to the director.
    – Lawrence
    Jan 24, 2016 at 7:52
  • @Rathony "Him" refers to a different person in the single sentence case and the two-sentence case. This is an example of the ambiguity I was referring to. It may be possible to construct a two-sentence case that changes the person "himself" refers to, but "himself" tends to stick more strongly to "the director" to my ear. In my lawyer example, replacing "him" with "himself" makes "himself" refer to the director when both sentences are read in full.
    – Lawrence
    Jan 24, 2016 at 10:04
  • 1
    @Araucaria Much appreciated.
    – Lawrence
    Jan 24, 2016 at 17:54

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