So if this is "Tim thinks for himself", how would you say "Tim thought to himself. Like:
Tim thought to himself "that's a strange place to put a penguin".
Сам is an emphatic pronoun that places the emphasis on the speaker. In your case, we have to use the reflexive pronoun себя. Тим думал про себя.
I’d translate the sentence as «Странный выбор места для пингвина, — подумал Тим». «Про себя» (to himself) doesn’t add anything to the Russian verb except putting emphasis on the fact that Tim didn’t say it out loud. Besides, «про себя» is an ambiguous phrase as may also mean “about himself”.
It’s a little speech deficiency of the female voice. The phenomenon is quite common in certain areas of Russia. Some Russians get so disgusted with this fault that they never consider dating someone who has it.
I do not understand what you mean here. What is the deficiency you referencing? Why are people unhappy with it?
Replacing palatalized /т/ and /д/ with palatalized /к/ and /г/, respectively. Would you be happy if someone called you “Teggy” when your name is Teddy? I doubt it. It’s that sort of thing.
is this both physical and indirect meaning of alone? For example can this mean both that tim is in a room alone and he is thinking and that tim thinks for himself (he makes up his own mind)
он готовит сам then means basically that he knows how to cook on his own (without help), regardelss of number of people around him?
In theory I think it can because Russian requires the pronoun to agree in gender with the noun it takes the place of. But usually сама means herself.
Сам never means “herself”. The word for “herself” is «сама». Other case forms of сам (masculine) and само (neuter) include самого (genitive/ accusative animate), самому (dative), самим (instrumental), самом (after prepositions о, в and на). Other forms of сама (feminine) include саму/самоё (accusative case) and самой (other cases). The stress falls on the last syllable in all cases. “Myself” and the singular “yourself” can be either сам or сама, depending on the gender. All the plural forms ending in -selves translate as сами, самих, самим or самими, regardless of the gender. All of the above only applies to the meanings “without help from outside”. Another meaning of the Russian words сам, сама etc. is “without being forced”.
In the given sentence, сам means "for himself", that is, 'without any help from anybody'. This is the only possible interpretation when сам follows the verb. When сам precedes the noun/pronoun X and is pronounced at a higher pitch than X, it means "As for X [himself], he"/ "As for X [itself], it" and is used to emphasize the difference between X and some other person/thing(s). For example, "Жена у Ивана - врач, а сам он работает на заводе" = "Ivan's wife is a doctor; as for Ivan [himself], he works in a factory." Apart from the meaning 'himself'/'by himself'/'on his own', сам has the meaning 'on his own will/initiative'. A good example of this is a famous quote from a very popular Russian comedy of 1960's : "Не виноватая я - он сам пришёл!" ("Don't blame me, he came here on his own will!").
Is there a way to make the sentence with один? Том думает один? Are they more or less the same?
Yes, they mean the same thing. We say, for example, "Том сидит один", "Том живет один", "Том путешествует один". But with думать, "в одиночестве" is, for some reason, used more commonly than "один"/"одна".
So do you think it's more likely we should use "в одиночестве" when it's something more mental/abstract? For example, он чувствует себя в одиночестве? Or maybe он тоскует в одиночестве? That's assuming either of those sentences sound natural at all...
«Он тоскует/томится в одиночестве» is a natural sentence. The same thought can be expressed by the sentence: «Ему одиноко». The phrase «чувствует себя» does not fit in the pattern. One can say though, «он чувствует себя хорошо / плохо / неважно / ужасно / прекрасно / превосходно / замечательно» or «ему тоскливо / грустно / весело / легко / тяжело / не по себе».
I put "Tim does think for himself", and it was marked as incorrect... seems like it should be accepted
No. The Russian for your sentence is either "Тим и в самом деле думает сам", or, in the context of arguing with your opponent, "Это не так / Неправда. Тим думает сам". In both sentences the word сам can be replaced with "своей головой", then they will sound even better.
Does this have two meanings? "thinks for himself" and "thinks by himself"?
Сам doesn't mean 'alone'. It only means 'without help from outside'. Judge for yourself whether you can translate it as 'by himself' or not.
I typed "thinks by himself" and it was accepted! That's why I'm so curious since both "for himself" and "by himself" are two distinct meanings. What do you think?
The phrase "thinks for himself" is inambiguouly interpreted as "thinks without asking for anybody's advice". "By himself" has two meanings, (1) alone, and (2) unaided (so the second meaning is the same as "for himself"); therefore, 'thinks by himself' sounds ambiguous. I doubt that it is widely used by native speakers.
Is the audio of 'думает' accurate? It sounds like the way Americans don't complete the 't' sound at the end of the word (the tongue is held in the 't' position, but doesn't move forward). If this is so, it would be easy for me, but I suspect the audio is just imperfect? I'm constantly trying to enunciate the 'т' at the end of words since I want it to sound correct, so it would save me a lot of work if Russian worked that way, too ;)
The reason why you don't hear the final т is that there is no gap between думает and the following word. "думает сам", therefore, sounds like думаецам. This is normal.
It doesn`t work that way in Russian. You need to pronounce the 'т' at the end.
The only possible transitive use of the verb думать occurs in the phrase «думать думу» which means “to be deep in one’s thoughts”. Otherwise the verb думать is intransitive - in other words, it cannot take any direct objects. The word себя is a direct object when used without a preposition. Ex.: Она видит себя в зеркале = She can see herself in the mirror. Он жалеет себя = He feels sorry for himself. Он любит себя = He loves himself. Он не умеет держать себя в руках = He cannot control his emotions.