I would like to understand why do I need to add the selbst to the word sich in this sentence:

Ergänzen Sie den Steckbrief und schreiben Sie einen Text über sich selbst.

In my mind it would be enough to finish this sentence with only

...einen Text über sich.

I need examples that support the explanation to understand it properly

Related topic: How to use "sich"

  • 3
    It's just like in English: Write a text about you / Write a text about yourself. Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 15:31
  • Did you notice how odd the redundancy in "* ... him, he who ..." is? Of course it's redundant and you can drop the he, but him whom sounds bad if not wrong, whereas him who lacks agreement in the antecedent. Now how to connect this to the question? se had been a pronoun in OE similar to him or sich, when the language was still strongly self reflexive; Analoguously, beschreiben Sie sich would just mean beschreiben Sie (cp. raffen Sie sich auf); One would have to ask was soll ich mir beschreiben?. Although, "* schreiben Sie sich einen Text über selbst" is ungrammatical.
    – vectory
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 19:10

3 Answers 3


Both sentences convey the same meaning and I wouldn't be surprised if I read either one, meaning that there is no "need to add the selbst".

One could argue, however, that the two sentences have a different emphasis. The version without selbst emphasizes the text, whereas the version with selbst emphasizes the topic of the text.

  • Good idea. To add examples, consider "schreiben Sie selbst einen Text über sich", which emphasises doing it alone, giving a self-reflected opinion. We would also say "Schreiben Sie einen Text über sich. Schreiben Sie den Text selbst [alleine, ohne Hilfe]". "Selber über sich schreiben ist schwierig". I'm not sure whether only I am conflating selber and selbst, or if this is common practice. One might add that determinative derselbe, denselben, etc. is the sameone self-same redundancy.
    – vectory
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 19:19

There is no change in meaning, but selbst puts more emphasis on sich.

Andere bevorzugen Bier, ich [selbst] trinke lieber Wein.

When spoken, selbst gets a notable stress.

  • So in sumary, in written german if you add "selbst" to "sich" it doesn't make a difference in the overall meaning. But when spoken the selbst stresses the word sich ? @guidot
    – Victor
    Commented Sep 1, 2019 at 14:46

Guidots answer gives me the idea that in spoken German the word 'sich' (without 'selbst') would be emphasized (stressed):

[spoken] Schreiben Sie etwas über sich.

This is not possible in written language. So I think 'sich selbst' is just a written workaround for spoken stress.

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