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.



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



Choose the correct reflexive pronouns to complete the sentences


Decide if the sentences are correct or incorrect


There is nothing such as 'theirself' and 'ourself'?

Hello Joseph,

That's correct, those are not standard forms. Instead, I'd recommend 'theirselves' and 'ourselves'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

They were feeling very sorry themselves.Why incorrect?

Hello Marybeth,

As is explained above, we use a reflexive pronoun as the object of a preposition when the object refers to the subject of the clause (e.g. 'He was feeling very sorry for himself.'). In the sentence you're asking about, the preposition 'for' is missing.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, teachers.
About the phrase 'Although he kept a large collection of whiskies, he rarely drank himself.'
I see that the word 'himself' is underlined more clearly when in opposition with 'but others do'. Yet here we don't have the benefit of this continuation. I guess this isn't a problem for genuine English speakers, but isn't its use at the end of the sentence somewhat confusing even for them? As in mistaking it for the shorter, and more senseless, 'He drank himself.' Shouldn't the substitute 'He himself rarely drank' shatter the confusion and emphasise more of the actual meaning of the phrase?

Hello relu tanase,

The word order you suggest is fine, but so is the original word order. It is a question of style and emphasis for the writer (or speaker). The context makes the meaning perfectly clear so I don't think that there is any possibility of ambiguity with this form, particularly as this use of reflexive pronouns is quite common in English. I often use them in this way myself.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir,

would you please guide me the following sentence is correct or not? if not then what it should be?
''Don't be one of the bigots who consider themselves the only rightly guided people''

Best regards

Hello Abidani,

Yes, that looks correct.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks a lot Kirk :)
Is it OK if I use 'let's not be' instead of 'don't be' in the same sentence.

Best regards

Hello Abidani,

Yes, that is fine in that sentence. 'Don't be' directly refers to the person to whom you are speaking; 'let's not be' suggests something more inclusive, referring to the speaker as well or, more generally, to all people.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team