You will use “yourself” as an object referring to “you” as the subject in a sentence. “You” will usually only be the subject. The only exception here is when there’s a desire to place emphasis onto another person.
If you’re confused already, don’t worry. Many native English speakers often get this wrong. However, discerning the distinctions is crucial to English grammar.
The Object Pronoun: Yourself
When “you” acts as the subject, “yourself” can be the sentence’s direct object. “Yourself” can also be an indirect object, but “you” and “yourself” both must appear together in the sentence. Alternatively, as a prepositional object, you can use “yourself” as long as “you” is the subject.
- Direct: You see yourself in the mirror.
- Indirect: When you get angry, you only hurt yourself.
- Object Preposition: What a lovely space you designed for yourself.
The implied use of “you” without using the actual word in a sentence is an imperative sentence. This means it’s not always necessary to say/write “you” in conjunction with “yourself.”
[You] See yourself in the mirror.
[You] Take yourself to the store.
[You] Write down all members of your household including yourself.
Reflexive pronouns as a sentence subject isn’t commonplace in American English as it would be in European English. So, some people will say “yourself” in an erroneous display of politeness. But, even in European English, it is only appropriate when referring to someone in high authority. For instance:
- European: Yourself is the most knowledgeable person in the room.
- American: You are the most knowledgeable person in the room.
Note that reflexive pronouns are often used in Ireland(especially the west of Ireland) in place of subject pronouns.
Checking for Appropriate Usage
If you are confused about which is correct, you can perform two tests for appropriate usage. First, you can use an actual noun in place of “yourself” to clarify which one will be better:
- Incorrect (with Check): I sent the letter to yourself. (I sent the letter to Bill.)
- Correct (after Check): I sent the letter to you.
You could also switch the pronouns:
- Incorrect: Contact Sarah you for more information.
- Correct: Contact Sara yourself for more information.
Knowing when to use “you” or “yourself” can be a bit tricky at times. But, to employ and demonstrate a good grasp of the English language, it’s imperative to understand the differences. “You” is often a subject or object of a sentence whereas “yourself” is almost always an object.