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Sich meaning is described as "himself, herself, itself, oneself, themselves"

In this url if we search for sich you see that is also used for "he, she, it, they, you"
https://lingvist.com/course/learn-german-online/resources/german-pronouns/

Eg:

Sie setzt sich die Kontaktlinsen ein.
She puts in her contacts.

Perhaps it is all in reflexive sense but how many pronouns can be used for "sich" in total? is this correct?

  • a) himself, herself, itself, oneself, themselves

or

  • b) himself, herself, itself, oneself, themselves, he, she, it, they, you
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    The tables on that page seem misleading to me. Please state your question more clearly in a way which makes your problem clear without visiting that site.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Mar 31 at 10:12
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    I think the question is confusing. What would count as a pronoun being "used for" another one? Pronouns are usually determined by the meaning of the sentence; you can't just swap them for one another.
    – RDBury
    Commented Mar 31 at 10:21
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    sich is always a reflexive pronoun. But it doesn't always translate into one in English.
    – tofro
    Commented Apr 30 at 12:47

4 Answers 4

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Only a) is correct, but the usage of sich and its English translations are different:

  • Sie = she
  • setzt ... ein = puts ... in (separable verb einsetzen = to put in)
  • sich = to herself
  • die = the
  • Kontaktlinsen = contact lenses

Sie setzt sich die Kontaktlinsen ein.
She puts the contact lenses in to herself.

It means, that the person who performs this operation (i.e. the subject, which is she) is also the receiver of the lenses. The she-person moves the lenses and the very same person has the lenses in her eyes at the end.

In English you usually don't explicitly add the information to whom the lenses are put in, because this is clear from the context. But in German it is very common to add this kind of information explicitly in the sentence, even if it was also possible to omit this information. So, this is also correct and means the same (at least in most contexts):

Sie setzt die Kontaktlinsen ein.
She puts the contact lenses in.

But while you normally omit herself in English, you usually add sich in German.

Sie setzt sich die Kontaktlinsen ein.
She puts the contact lenses in.

Here is a mini story as an example:

Sandra hatte die Schachtel, in der sie ihre Kontaktlinsen aufbewahrt, verloren. Aber Klaus gibt ihr ein Paar seiner Linsen. Sie setzt sich die Kontaktlinsen ein. Dann sagt sie zu Klaus: »Ich kann die Welt zwar nicht durch deine Augen sehen, aber jetzt wenigstens durch deine Linsen.«

Sandra had lost the box in which she keeps her contact lenses. But Klaus gives her a pair of his lenses. She puts the contact lenses in. Then she says to Klaus: "I can't see the world through your eyes, but at least now I can see it through your lenses."

From this story you can also learn, that »Sie setzt sich die Kontaktlinsen ein« does not mean, that the person who wears the lenses in her eyes at the end is the owner of the lenses. But the translation given in your question claims exactly, that is was her lenses:

She puts in her contact lenses.
Sie setzt ihre Kontaktlinsen ein.

Btw, this sentence contains no explicit information to whom the lenses are appreciated, as you can learn from the next mini story:

Bei dem Unfall brach sich Werner nicht nur beide Arme, auch seine einzige Brille ging zu Bruch. Seine Frau Barbara bot ihm daher ihre Kontaktlinsen an. Werner willigte ein, hielt still und öffnete die Augen so weit er konnte. Dann war es so weit: Sie setzt ihre Kontaktlinsen ein. Werner blinzelte, seine Augen tränten ein wenig, aber er sah wieder klar.

Werner not only broke both his arms in the accident, but also his only pair of glasses. His wife Barbara therefore offered him her contact lenses. Werner agreed, kept still and opened his eyes as wide as he could. Then the time had come: She put in her contact lenses. Werner blinked, his eyes watered a little, but he could see clearly again.

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sich is always a reflexive pronoun, but it is the correct one only for the third person cases:

  • he
  • she
  • it
  • they
  • impersonal one (man)

For a completely inflected table see e.g. wiktionary for schämen.

Your first two paragraphs state exactly that and don't contradict each other as you seem to assume.

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  • how many pronouns can be used for "sich" in total? exact terms in german please Commented Mar 31 at 10:02
  • I have edited the question Commented Mar 31 at 10:09
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    @BlueClouds what is unclear about this answer? Commented Mar 31 at 10:20
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    @BlueClouds And the complete list, using 'sich waschen' as example: ich wasche mich, du wäschst dich, er/sie/es/man wäscht sich, wir waschen uns, ihr wäscht euch, sie waschen sich.
    – kscherrer
    Commented Apr 30 at 13:38
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    ... and in dative form: ich wasche mir den Kopf, du wäschst dir den Kopf, er/sie/es/man wäscht sich den Kopf, wir waschen uns den Kopf, ihr wäscht euch den Kopf, sie/Sie waschen sich den Kopf.
    – kscherrer
    Commented Apr 30 at 13:51
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Sie setzt sich die Kontaktlinsen ein. — “She puts in her contacts.”

That translation leads you astray because it's by meaning. It's not grammatically identical. The grammatically matching translations are:

Sie setzt sich die Kontaktlinsen ein. — She puts herself contacts in.

She puts in her contacts. — Sie setzt ihre Kontaktlinsen ein.

As you can see the English translation is rather bumpy. It's less prominent for the literal German translation but this isn't how Germans usually put this either.

In German, you rather tell who bears the result of the action than who possesses the thing used for the action. Compare:

Die Optikerin setzt ihrem Kunden die Kontaktlinsen ein.

This tells who gets the contacts but not who they belong to. We have to guess that from context.

Die Optikerin setzt seine Kontaktlinsen ein.

This tells whose contacts those are but not who gets them put in. We have to guess that from context.

Die Optikerin setzt ihrem Kunden seine Kontaktlinsen ein.

This tells both.

And you can also do that in a reflexive fashion:

Die Optikerin setzt sich seine Kontaktlinsen ein.

In this example, the optometrist puts in the guy's contacts. But not on the guy, but on herself.

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Your question cannot be answered in general because the word "sich" is not always translated into one specific word when translating from German into English. Your own example illustrates this nicely: in German we say "setzt sich ein" but in English, you say "puts in" without a reflexive pronoun. On the other hand, in English you state "her contact lenses" with a possessive pronoun, while in German, we say "die Kontaktlinsen" with a definite article, but you wouldn't say that the German definite article is a translation of the English possessive pronoun.

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