He felt anger rising inside him.

I saw this sentence in the OED; the definition indicates that "He" and "him" refer to the same person. Under the circumstances, "himself" is commonly seen rather than "him". I viewed previous posts relating to this topic, but they didn't tell the same thing.

Why "him" not "himself" appears in the above sentence? Can “him” be substituted by "himself"?


A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (Quirk et al) explains:

The basic reflexive pronoun is sometimes optional, in the sense that it may acceptably be replaced by the more usual 'ordinary' objective pronoun. The self-forms are chosen to supply special emphasis. [The scare quotes are mine, EA, and I'd say the reflexive forms are sometimes chosen for formality rather than emphasis]:

(a) In some spatial prepositional phrases:

  • She's building a wall of Russian books about her(self).
  • Holding her new yellow bathrobe about her(self) with both arms, she walked up to him.
  • Mason stepped back, gently closing the door behind him(self), and walked down the corridor.
  • They left the apartment, pulling the spring lock shut behind them(selves).

With 'He felt anger rising inside him', a metaphorical (container ... level) spatial usage, licensing 'him', 'himself' could certainly be chosen instead. However, it would sound perhaps a little ponderous, even stuffy, rather than punchy. In fact, punchier still would be 'He felt his anger rising.'

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