General Writing and Grammar Help/use of "to himself"

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Question
Dear Ted,

Can you please help me to understand the use of the pronoun “himself” in the following sentences:

“It was important to Bob to keep the information to himself.”
“He wanted to keep near to himself all his friends.”

Is the word “himself” a reflexive pronoun in these sentences?

I think the presence of the preposition “to” before “himself” is confusing me.  (In the past, I have used reflexive pronouns without including a preposition as in  -  “He hurt himself”)

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Rich

P.S.  Please note that even though these sentences may be worded differently in order to avoid the use of "to himself" - I have used these examples because I hope to understand the "to himself" construction (if such a construction exists).  Thank you again for your help with my questions.

Answer
Dear Rich:


Can you please help me to understand the use of the pronoun “himself” in the
following sentences:

“It was important to Bob to keep the information to himself.”
“He wanted to keep near to himself all his friends.”

Is the word “himself” a reflexive pronoun in these sentences?

I think the presence of the preposition “to” before “himself” is confusing me.  
(In the past, I have used reflexive pronouns without including a preposition as
in  -  “He hurt himself”)

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Rich

P.S.  Please note that even though these sentences may be worded differently in
order to avoid the use of "to himself" - I have used these examples because I
hope to understand the "to himself" construction (if such a construction
exists).  Thank you again for your help with my questions.

*** Reflexive pronouns do not follow a preposition, such as "to" or "for.  You have given two examples using "to."  Here is one using "for" -- He bought the ice cream FOR HIMSELF.

When "to," "for," or other prepositions are placed before what might have been a reflexive pronoun, they change the that pronoun to an "object of the preposition."  The "construction" to which you refer is altered once the preposition is used.

He finished the painting himself.  [He himself finished the painting.]
These two examples are clearly reflexive.

However, THIS version is NOT reflexive:  He finished the painting FOR himself.  The sentence contains the adverbial prepositional phrase, for himself, which explains WHY he finished the painting.

The simple rule is "You cannot use a preposition to introduce a reflexive pronoun." ALL prepositions MUST have an object, and what "might have been a reflexive pronoun" can only be a pronoun that is the object of the preposition!

Ted

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

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B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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