reflexive pronouns

 

The reflexive pronouns are:

 

Singular: myself - yourself - himself - herself - itself
Plural: ourselves - yourselves - themselves


When we use a reflexive pronoun

We use a reflexive pronoun:

• as a direct object when the object is the same as the subject of the verb:

I am teaching myself to play the piano.
Be careful with that knife. You might cut yourself.

We can use a reflexive pronoun as direct object with most transitive verbs, but these are the most common:

amuse blame cut dry enjoy help
hurt introduce kill prepare satisfy teach


Some verbs change their meaning slightly when they have a reflexive pronoun as direct object:

  • Would you like to help yourself to another drink?
    = Would you like to take another drink.
  • I wish the children would behave themselves.
     = I wish the children would behave well.
  • He found himself lying by the side of the road.
    He was surprised when he realised that he was at the side of the road.
  • I saw myself as a famous actor.
    = I imagined that I was a famous actor.
  • She applied herself to the job of mending the lights.
    = She worked very hard to mend the lights.
  • He busied himself in the kitchen.
     = He worked busily in the kitchen.
  • I had to content myself with a few Euros.
    I had to be satisfied with a few Euros.

We do not use a reflexive pronoun after verbs which describe things people usually do for themselves, such as wash, shave, dress:

He washed [himself] in cold water.
He always shaved [himself] before going out in the evening.
Michael dressed [himself] and got ready for the party.

We only use reflexives with these verbs for emphasis:

He dressed himself in spite of his injuries.
She’s old enough to wash herself.

• as indirect object when the indirect object is the same as the subject of the verb:

Would you like to pour yourself a drink.
We’ve brought ourselves something to eat.

• as the object of a preposition when the object refers to the subject of the clause:

They had to cook for themselves.
He was feeling very sorry for himself.

 

Warning

But we use personal pronouns, not reflexives, after prepositions of place...

He had a suitcase beside him.

and after with when it means "accompanied by":

She had a few friends with her.

 

We use a reflexive pronoun...

• with the preposition by when we want to show that someone did something alone and/or without any help:

He lived by himself in an enormous house.
She walked home by herself.

The children got dressed by themselves.
I prepared the whole meal by myself.

• to emphasise the person or thing we are referring to:

Kendal itself is quite a small town.

especially if we are talking about someone very famous:

Sir Paul McCartney himself sang the final song.

We often put the reflexive pronoun at the end of the clause when we are using it for emphasis:

I baked the bread myself.
She mended the car herself

 

Activities
 

 
Choose the correct reflexive pronouns to complete the sentences
Decide if the sentences are correct or incorrect

 

Comments

Hi people.
I was reading Arthur Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey and came across an interesting usage of the reflexive pronouns in the book's foreword, when the author is discussing a possible encounter between humans and aliens:

"Why have such meetings not occurred already, since we ourselves are about to venture into space?"

Am I wrong to say that the reflexive pronoun here (along with "we") works as a subject of the sentence? Could you show me some other examples of this? It seems as if a comparison between someone else's opinion or action and our own is necessary in order for this to work.

Thank your for your time,

Igor

Hi Igor90,

The reflexive pronoun here is simply a way of emphasising the identity of the subject.

They themselves like to do this.

He himself has lived there for many years.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Can I say "He live in a big house alon i'm afride he can't take cear himself"?

Hello Taro007,

That's not a correct sentence, no. I would guess that the sentence you are trying to say is:

He lives alone in a big house and I'm afraid he can't take care of himself.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,

Many times I gets confused myself with the order of the sentences. For Ex: As per my knowledge, the solution is correct. (OR) The solution is correct, as per my knowledge.

which one is correct? Please explain me on how to determine which one comes first.

Thanks,
Ananth.

Hi Ananth,

In many sentences in English the word order is flexible and that is true with this sentence. You can say it in either of these ways; both are correct.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, everyone,
There is a question that I have not found its answer by myself up to now. The formation of reflexive pronoun is :
Possessive adjective + self (singular) or selves (plural)
as we all have already known, e.g. my+self, your+self, your+selves, our+selves, her+self,
its+self. But why are they "himself" instead of "hisself" as well as "themselves" instead of "theirselves" ?
Thank you for all your answers in advance.

Hello phanphiphong,

It's an interesting question but I'm afraid there's no answer to it that I'm aware of. These things grow up by convention rather than by following explicit rules. If I had to guess as to the reason then I would say that ease of pronunciation is probably the cause - it is harder to say 'hisself' than 'himself' and so this was probably preferred and became the standard. This is purely supposition, of course.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi teachers,
Good day!
I am confused about the usage of 'by + reflexive pronoun' and 'put the reflexive pronoun at the end of the clause when we are using it for emphasis''.
For example, 'I prepared the whole meal by myself.'--means I prepared the meal 'alone' or 'without any help'. But in my opinion, 'I prepared the whole meal myself' could mean that I prepared the meal alone as well. So, which sentence is correct?
Thank you very much!

Hi peter jiajia,

Both sentences are correct, but the meaning is a little different.

I cooked it by myself - there was only me

I cooked it myself - it was I who did it, not someone else

The second sentence implies that it was cooked alone, but that is not the main information. This can be important:

I will talk to him by myself - no-one else will be present

I will talk to him myself - I will not delegate this to anyone else (though the conversation may be public)

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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