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"Some people choose friends who are different from themselves, while others choose friends who are similar to themselves."

"Some people choose friends who are different from them, while others choose friends who are similar to them."

Which is correct? Or both?

The sentence "Some people choose friends who are different from themselves, while others choose friends who are similar to themselves." comes from a list of essay topics compiled by ETS (Educational Testing Service).

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From a thread titled “between them / themselves” at WordReference.com:

user El10, Senior Member:

My grammar book [Advanced Grammar in Use by Martin Hewings —Ed.] says the following:

When the subject and object (after a preposition) refer to the same person or thing we use a reflexive pronoun after the preposition:
He was pleased with himself. (not ...pleased with him.)

If the verb has an object, we use a personal pronoun, not a reflexive pronoun:
I remember closing the door behind me. (not... closing the door behind myself.)

However, if the clause has a direct object and we need to make it clear that the subject and prepositional phrase refer to the same person or thing, we use a reflexive pronoun:
She bought the bracelet for herself. ('...for her' suggests it was bought for someone else.)

user entangledbank, Senior Member:

The choice of plain or reflexive pronouns after prepositions is difficult. Some take one, same take the other, some allow both, sometimes it depends on the exact meaning ('They kept it a secret between them/themselves'). There is often no good reason, just idiom.

I can't give you a specific rule, but I think both are correct. Read this example:

user idialegre, Senior Member:

"They shared the food equally between them." The main emphasis is on the fact that they shared equally, i.e., 50-50.

"They shared the food equally between themselves." This suggests to me a slight emphasis on the fact that they did not share the food with anybody else, as in, "They distributed the cigarettes among the rest of the people, but shared the food equally between themselves."

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    If you copy part of your answer (first 3 paragraphs) from an outside source, you need to reference it. – Peter Shor Apr 9 '17 at 16:48
  • The words "I can't give you a specific rule, but I think both are correct. Read this example" are apparently this author's own work. All the rest of this answer is copied from a thread at WordReference without crediting the original authors. And the first three paragraphs were originally copied from a grammar book by one of the WordReference users in that thread without crediting its author or the source, a source which @PeterShor seems to have identified above. I will edit the answer to credit the sources. – MetaEd Apr 11 '17 at 20:14

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