Is there anything that can help to know which to use, i. e. verb + ending ся or verb + себя, or does this differ from verb to verb?

For example I don't know which of these would be correct:

Они именно этот вопрос никогда себе не задают.

Они именно этим вопросом никогда не задаются.

  • 1
    Can you, please, be more precise and provide some examples to make you question more illustrative.
    – shabunc
    Jul 10 '14 at 18:15
  • @shabunc Done...
    – user3538
    Jul 10 '14 at 18:19
  • 2
    thank you! it looks like both examples you've provided are incorrect, the correct form - Они именно этот вопрос никогда себе не задают - or они именно этим вопросом никогда не задаются. Is it possible you are asking about this very difference?
    – shabunc
    Jul 10 '14 at 18:30
  • @shabunc ah, yes задать вопрос .. and, yes, this difference. It may be differ from verb to verb, but there may be some general rule or so
    – user3538
    Jul 10 '14 at 22:10
  • 2
    Note, that there's another meaning of the particle -ся with many verbs, and that's друг друга (each other, one another), this cannot be substituted with себя or себе: "Они сражаются." - 1. They fight [e.g. for freedom]. 2. They fight with each other. Such verbs+ся usually cannot be substituted with verbs+друг друга. In many verbs -ся has nothing to do with either себя or друг друга, it has no obvious meaning, just marks intransitivity of the verb: "Мы боимся" - We are scared [not of ourselves, naturally]. "Он плюётся." - He spits [at me].
    – Yellow Sky
    Jul 10 '14 at 23:32

Let's consider these:

Они именно вот этот вопрос никогда не спрашивают

Именно вот этот вопрос никогда не спрашиваeтся

So, looks like -ся suffix used in general situations when we have no particular person but want to specify how it usual was.

About word себя and suffix '-ся' usage. Is not the same. Use word when you want to say something about yourself, but suffix rather used in usual/general actions. For example:

This question does not asking:

Именно вот этот вопрос никогда не спрашиваeтся

No one is asking this particular question

  • 1
    "This question is never asked".
    – Anixx
    Jul 20 '14 at 2:24

The reflexive suffix -ся can be described as middle or mediopassive voice.

  • He shaved and brushed his teeth.

Here to shave is used in a way similar to middle voice. Reflexively. We don't need to specify that he shaved himself.

The reflexive pronoun себя (in accusative case) represents a specified direct object which is the agent.

Он побрился is the same as He shaved. Он увидел себя is the same as He saw himself.

As to how to differenciate the cases in which to use the suffix or the pronoun you really just need to remember the -ся verbs. They generally have a completely different meaning so you'll have to learn them anyway.

  • Я увидел себя с ней. - I saw myself with her.
  • Я увиделся с ней. - I met her. or I saw her.

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