Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive pronouns add information to a sentence by pointing back to a noun or pronoun near the beginning of the sentence. Reflexive pronouns end in -self or -selves. The English reflexive pronouns are myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves and themselves.

  • I cut myself shaving this morning.

Emphatic pronouns also end in -self or -selves, but they just add emphasis to the noun or pronoun.

  • I will tell him myself.
  • I wouldn’t sell this to the King himself.

Reflexive pronouns are used to talk about actions where the subject and object are the same person.

  • I cut myself shaving this morning.
  • Alice saw herself in the mirror.
  • John doesn’t know what to do with himself.

A reflexive pronoun can refer to other things besides the subject of a clause.

  • His letters are all about himself.
  • I am going to tell her a few facts about herself.

Emphatic use

We can use reflexive pronouns as subject or object emphasisers to mean ‘that person/thing and nobody/nothing else’.

  • She herself admitted her mistake.
  • The manager spoke to me himself.
  • I myself cleaned the house.

Reflexives used instead of personal pronouns

Reflexives are often used instead of personal pronouns after as, like, but (for) and except (for).

  • These shoes are specially designed for heavy runners like yourself. (OR … like you.)
  • Everybody was happy except myself. (OR … except me.)

Cases where reflexives are not used

Certain verbs are not used with reflexive pronouns in English. Examples are: open, sell, concentrate, feel etc.

  • Suddenly the door opened. (NOT Suddenly the door opened itself.)
  • His books are selling well. (NOT His books are selling themselves well.)
  • I tried to concentrate. (NOT I tried to concentrate myself.)

Read the following sentences.

  • I enjoyed myself.
  • We enjoyed ourselves.
  • Enjoy yourself.
  • They enjoyed themselves.
  • He enjoyed himself.
  • The cat was enjoying itself chasing the mouse.

When –self is added to my, your, him, her and it and –selves to our, your and them, we get compound personal pronouns. When these pronouns are used as the object of a verb, they are called reflexive pronouns.

Other examples are given below.

  • He loves himself. (He loves whom? – himself)
  • She praised herself. (She praised whom? – herself)
  • washed myself.
  • Behave yourself.
  • She killed herself.

Sometimes the reflexive pronoun is used after a preposition.

  • He was beside himself with rage.
  • She did it all by herself.
  • She went all by herself.

Note that reflexive pronouns are used only when the subject and object refer to the same person or thing. They are not used in other situations.

  • No one knows her better than he. (NOT … better than himself.)
  • Alice and I went together. (NOT Alice and myself …)
  • wrote the letter. (NOT Myself wrote …)

Emphatic pronouns

Read the following sentences.

  • She herself spoke to me.
  • myself wrote all the letters.
  • They themselves admitted it.
  • The house itself is good, but not the surroundings.

In the sentences given above, the compound personal pronouns are used for the sake of emphasis and hence they are called emphatic pronouns. Emphatic pronouns are usually placed immediately after the noun or pronoun which they emphasize. Sometimes, they follow at a distance.

  • saw the minister myself.
  • He said so himself.

Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets.

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