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"He looked out the window and saw his car."

Does "his" mean the same person initially called "he", or someone else? In English, it could be either one.

If the English language had the word "himself's", then that sentence would mean the car belonging to someone other than the person initially called "he". If it referred to the one initally called "he", it would say "He saw himself's car."

Which languages have such possessive reflexive pronouns?

6
  • 3
    Would you count his own?
    – Keelan
    Sep 12, 2023 at 4:46
  • 4
    Svoj in Slavic languages.
    – alephalpha
    Sep 12, 2023 at 7:01
  • 1
    Mandarin has ziji 'self' as a possessive reflexive pronoun. He saw ziji DE car.
    – Yili Xia
    Sep 13, 2023 at 3:47
  • 1
    Cannot you use the word own for this? "He looked out the window and saw own car." Looks awkward but I think it's grammatical.
    – Anixx
    Sep 13, 2023 at 5:29
  • 3
    It would be "his own", not just "own"
    – misterben
    Sep 13, 2023 at 8:40

1 Answer 1

2

Swedish is one such language that distinguishes these two meanings.

Here are the main personal and possessive pronouns. (I've left out spelling and dialect variants.)

         Subject            Object             Possessive, Common Possessive, Neuter Possessive, Plural  
______________________________________________________________________________________________________
1S       jag                mig                min                mitt               mina
         -                  mig (själv)        min (egen)         mitt (eget)        mina (egna)  
______________________________________________________________________________________________________
2S       du                 dig                din                ditt               dina
         -                  dig (själv)        din (egen)         ditt (eget)        dina (egna)
______________________________________________________________________________________________________
3S.FEM   hon                henne              hennes             hennes             hennes
         -                  sig (själv)        sin (egen)         sitt (eget)        sina (egna)

3S.MASC  han                honom              hans               hans               hans
         -                  sig (själv)        sin (egen)         sitt (eget)        sina (egna)

3S.EPI   hen                hen                hens               hens               hens
         -                  sig (själv)        sin (egen)         sitt (eget)        sina (egna)
           
3S.C     den                den                dens               dens               dens
         -                  sig (själv)        sin (egen)         sitt (eget)        sina (egna)

3S.N     det                det                dess               dess               dess
         -                  sig (självt)       sin (egen)         sitt (eget)        sina (egna)
______________________________________________________________________________________________________
1P       vi                 oss                vår                vårt               våra
         -                  oss (själva)       vår (egen)         vårt (eget)        våra (egna)
______________________________________________________________________________________________________
2P       ni                 er                 er                 ert                era
         -                  er (själva)        er (egen)          ert (eget)         era (egna)
______________________________________________________________________________________________________
3P       de                 dem                deras              deras              deras
         -                  dem (själva)       sin (egen)         sitt (eget)        sina (egna)

I've put the reflexives on the line below. Själv/-t/-a and egen/eget/egna are used for emphasis, but if you ignore those, you'll see that the differentiation is only in third person, with sig as the object pronoun and sin/sitt/sina as the possessive. Third-person non-reflexive possessives end with "s" and do not change for the gender or number of the possessum, unlike all the other possessive pronouns.

Han såg hans bil. "He saw his car." ( = another man's car)
Han såg sin (egen) bil. "He saw his (own) car."

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