I'm a little confused. At work I often hear 'You can get in touch with ourselves' instead of 'Get in touch with us' and it triggers my inner toff.

Am I right in thinking that 'get in touch with ourselves' is an incorrect usage of a reflexive pronoun in this context?

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    Reflexive pronouns, as far as I know, should only be used when referring to something the pronoun was doing to itself. For example, "Sometimes I talk to myself" is fine, but "You can call myself on this number" isn't because someone else is doing the calling. On a similar note, "we can get in touch with ourselves" but you can't. – John Clifford Mar 31 '16 at 22:49
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    Despite the usage note that Edwin Ashworth mentions, such usage is not part of my AmE dialect and it sounds terrible to me. – Alan Carmack Mar 31 '16 at 23:26

If you have no success with the contacts you've mentioned, you can get in touch with ourselves

is arguably grammatical and idiomatic, but uses 'ourselves' as an emphatic rather than a reflexive pronoun. This article at GrammarMonster explains what emphatic pronouns are and how they are usually used.

As to the particular usage here, without an accompanying personal pronoun or noun, a usage note at AHDEL reads:

Usage Note: The -self pronouns, such as myself, yourselves, and herself, are sometimes used as emphatic substitutes for personal pronouns, as in

He was an enthusiastic fisherman like myself.

The practice is particularly common in compound phrases:

The boss asked John and myself to give a brief presentation.

Although these usages have been common in the writing of reputable authors for several centuries, they may not sit well with many readers today. A majority of the Usage Panel dislikes them, though resistance has been eroding over the years.

An article by Ben Zimmer at Visual Thesaurus contains:

Part of the problem is that myself gets plugged in as a replacement for I or me in many different ways, and people's judgments of their acceptability may vary widely....

You can judge for yourself which uses of myself sound acceptable or unacceptable, and which fall in a gray area somewhere in between. Personally, I don't mind myself too much when it appears at the end of a list of names, as in Safire's "Price, Buchanan, and myself" or Boswell's "Sir Joshua Reynolds, Dr. Burney, Dr. Johnson, and myself." (Linguists call these "coordinate structures.") It also sounds relatively fine to me when the speaker or writer is making a comparison to someone or something else, especially after than, as when John McCain speaks of "serving a cause greater than myself."

Personally, I find He was an enthusiastic fisherman like myself. totally acceptable, and the first sentence in this answer at least as good as the 'with us' version (I feel emphasis is required to mark the unexpected suggested alternative).

However, using 'get in touch with ourselves' where the unmarked 'get in touch with us' is required is ridiculously bombastic:

*/?? 'We are Scan-Tecs. You can get in touch with ourselves in the following ways: ...'

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    Would it really be considered an emphatic in that position, Edwin? I get that in something like "We ourselves can be contacted at [number]" but in this context the pronoun doesn't appear to be emphasising who you can get in touch with, which would make it a reflexive pronoun being used improperly. – John Clifford Mar 31 '16 at 22:57
  • Yes. 'As a last resource, you can even get in touch with ourselves, though we don't usually deal direct with the public.' – Edwin Ashworth Mar 31 '16 at 23:00
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    The Grammar Monster examples looked like perfectly regular reflexives to me, albeit used for the purposes of emphasis. I didn't see any of the please get in touch with ourselves genre. – WS2 Mar 31 '16 at 23:24
  • @WS2 She cut herself. <=/=> *She herself cut. Reflexive usage. // She went there herself. <==> She herself went there. Central emphatic usage. // At last I've found another spin-bowler like myself. Disputed emphatic usage. Ben Zimmer at Visual Thesaurus has a balanced article. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 31 '16 at 23:50
  • @EdwinAshworth She went there herself is fine, but he goes there with herself sounds odd. – Lawrence Apr 1 '16 at 1:07

Reflexives have two main uses: one where they function as complement, and an emphatic use where they function as modifier or adjunct:

We said ourselves that you could get in touch. (complement)

We ourselves said that you could get in touch. (emphatic)

The use of the reflexive pronoun in those example may be considered the default or normal form.

By contrast, the default form of a pronoun in examples like yours is non-reflexive, but you can override it by using a reflexive pronoun.

We said you could get in touch with us (default - non-reflexive pronoun)

You can get in touch with ourselves. (override with reflexive pronoun)

Grammatically, override reflexives do not require the close structural link between pronoun and antecedent that characterises basic reflexives. In fact, they can sometimes occur without any antecedent at all where the pronoun is interpreted in a purely deictic way, as in your example.

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  • Not my downvote; this is CGEL treatment, if I remember it correctly. Largely just different terminology, though the 'override' concept is nice. Perhaps someone doesn't appreciate your not going into detail about when such overrides are acceptable, and to what degree (I've gone an extra inch or two). Though as Zimmer says, that's very close to being POB in many cases, and it would take a thesis to cover reasonably. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 1 '16 at 21:26
  • @BillJ +1 ... But "We said ourselves that you could get in touch. (complement)" <-- Isn't that an emphatic usage? I think a complement might be something like "We told ourselves that you could get in touch". In the original example ourselves seems like a reiteration of we. No? – Araucaria - Not here any more. Apr 6 '16 at 0:59
  • @ Araucaria I'm inclined to think a more likely example would be We blame ourselves for your not getting in touch. "Ourselves" seems somewhat restrictive in its distribution compared to the other persons. I tried to work it into the OP's example with a minimum change of words, but lost the plot! – BillJ Apr 6 '16 at 7:18

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