1

I always hesitate between within me or within myself when the subject is I. Is there a rule that can help me decide? For example, in this sentence

The fullness of life that we receive within us/ourselves every time we (do something).

I just can't decide which one is correct and sounds more natural. I know I could omit within us/ourselves, but I am not asking for a re-writing of the sentence. Within is important for the text and needs to be there. My question is how I can decide which pronoun to use after within. Definitions in dictionaries like Cambridge, and M-W don't address this issue.

Edit: Please note that I do know that both variants, with us and with ourselves, exist, so I do not need examples of it, especially if these are examples with other prepositions. I find within a particular preposition with a certain notion of reflexive connotation, if I may call it that way. Also, I am interested in within marking direction as in my example: receive denotes a movement of something from without within, so examples of within used with static verbs like experience or be do not really match what I am looking for. And yes, it is important that the subject is of the same person and number with the pronoun after within, as it seems to make the reflexive pronoun mandatory, yet in some cases it does remain optional. Whence my dilemma.

Edit 2: This was meant to be a comment but the link has too many characters and doesn't fit. This GNgram convinces me that receive within oneself does exist, but it is outdated (which I welcome - this is the tone of the text I am working with). I wasn't aware though that it was (almost exclusively) restricted to religious contexts. I am quite amazed by the discovery.

10
  • @EdwinAshworth I would need to express the pronoun though. I want to know about how "within" behaves with pronouns.
    – fev
    Aug 20, 2021 at 11:24
  • 1
    If you can't go intransitive (as CGEL would call it): The fullness of life that we receive within. ... ACGEL (Quirk et al) look at the confusing, sometimes unexpected choice between myself and me say ('I wrapped my towel around me/myself': 'myself' is the more formal choice). Sometimes, there is a free choice. In your case, If I couldn't rewrite at all, I'd certainly go with 'ourselves'; this fits the rather poetic register better. // Related: ...yourself ...versus you ... Aug 20, 2021 at 11:29
  • Your comment is almost a full answer. If you had a reference that explains that "'myself' is the more formal choice", I would definitely accept it.
    – fev
    Aug 20, 2021 at 11:37
  • 1
    It's hard for me to read "receive" in the OP's setting and not understand/feel it as "perceiving the fullness of life" (rather than receiving the fullness of life). IMO the only way of "marking direction" would be to make it explicit--something like The fullness of life we receive from outside to within ourselves. I would note that in Google Books I see receive within us/ourselves exclusively in religious settings.
    – DjinTonic
    Aug 22, 2021 at 10:52
  • 1
    Does it help to sidestep what "we receive within us/ourselves…" to look first at "I receive within me/myself…" and then at "is received within me/myself…"? Standing to be corrected, I suggest "is received within me…" is more obvious than "within myself…". Aug 22, 2021 at 23:39

3 Answers 3

1

I always hesitate between within me or within myself when the subject is I. Is there a rule that can help me decide?

The fullness of life that we receive within us/ourselves every time we (do something).

Given your context, you have answered your own question and provided a reference:

This GNgram convinces me that receive within oneself does exist, but it is outdated (which I welcome - this is the tone of the text I am working with). I wasn't aware though that it was (almost exclusively) restricted to religious contexts.

It appears that deities or at least their acolytes, have their English stuck somewhere between the the 17th and early 19th centuries.

Whereas "us" simply speaks of a group of which the speaker is a member; "ourselves" has the emphatic nuance of "us personally".

Use ourselves.

As an aside, and depending on your view of the influence of Old English on Modern English grammar, {possessive pronoun + self} was originally beneficial dative e.g. to/for myself. As a reflexive, it is not a direct object but a pseudo-object to comply with transitivity.

Compare He hit me / *he hit myself

I hit myself / *I hit me.

Prepositions control a grammatical case. Locative prepositions tend to control the dative. Within is locative. ourselves is dative only but us can be either dative or accusative.)

Thus either can be used, but "us" is currently the popular choice.

0

A simple ngram search shows that "within me" is much preferred. However, the relatively more important frequency of "within me" should not hide the fact that "within myself" is used a lot (ref. 1, ref. 2, ref. 3).

In the ngram shown below (link above) it can be seen that only at the turn of the last century did "me" come to distance itself greatly from "myself"; nevertheless the use of "myself" did not decrease. It is generally felt that "myself" is more formal (Do not use "myself" because you think it sounds more formal or polite.). Personally, I perceive no tangible difference.

enter image description here


Additional reflections prompted by user Peter Shore's comments

This singling out of the subject is not relevant in my opinion; in "you caused the change within me/myself" and "I cause the change within me/myself" the subject does not impinge on either the meaning of the verb nor that of the preposition: the idea remains the same. Countless cases on that model can be constructed.

I do not think either that anything meaningful is to be deduced from the ngram produced in the comments (ngram). The fact that "the powers within myself" appears not to be used at all does not yield a clear indication of anything.
An examination of the 17 nouns used in the pattern "the < noun > within me/myself" shows three trends as follows.

1/ {strength, witness, battle, change, power, matter}: used with both "me" and "myself"
2/ {spirit, fire, life, heart, soul, man, powers, voice, world}: used with only (or almost only) "me"
3/ {contest, difference} used only with "myself"

"Strength, witness, battle, change, power" are used predominantly with "me"; only "matter" is used more often with "within".
"Fire, life, heart, soul, man, powers" are used exclusively with "me".
"Contest, difference" are used exclusively with "within".
On the whole the use of "me" is more important and in the past two decades there is often a great increase in the use of "me". In the light of an increasing loss of formality over this past period, it seems that there is on the whole no other criterion for the choice between those two pronouns than one of formality.

7
  • 1
    This question asks about "when the subject is I or we". Your Ngram doesn't separate these cases from ones like "Those events extinguished the fire within me," where very few people would object to me. Aug 20, 2021 at 15:11
  • And to show that the subject makes a difference, consider this Ngram. Aug 20, 2021 at 15:16
  • 2
    Does using within instead of inside (of) restrict things to abstractions? Can you say I have a gigantic dinner within myself? Aug 20, 2021 at 15:19
  • @JohnLawler I would tend to think "inside of me" is not appropriate for the mind, but I couldn't assert that. In fact, a short examination of this page shows me that there is no truth in that. As to the restriction to the mind that would correspond to "within" a perusal of the first one of the three pages in reference yields just one contradicting result (One day I realized that perhaps the problem was within myself, and began a process of body with fruit diets), and so, the restriction seems real enough.
    – LPH
    Aug 21, 2021 at 0:48
  • I always had the same confusion... thanks for clarifying it... :) May 19, 2022 at 15:51
0

There is no rule. It is merely a question of style. A further variation could be:

within my own self

Here 'own' is acting as an intensifier. Thus as emphasis.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.