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
Section: 

Comments

Hello, why "She still dresses herself even though she's 93." is a correct sentence when you guys said "We do not use a reflexive pronoun after verbs which describe things people usually do for themselves, such as wash, shave, dress: ??

Hello Saakshee,

As it says just below the three example sentences, it is possible to use the reflexive pronoun with 'dress' for emphasis. In the case of a 93-year-old, it seems reasonable to want to emphasise that they are able to take care of themselves in this way. In this exercise, there is not context to make this clear, but it is possible.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

IT was mentioned that reflexive pronoun can be as indirect object when the indirect object is the same as the subject of the verb.

The indirect object in below example is not clear to me. Could you guide me to understand which is the indirect object here.

"Would you like to pour yourself a drink."

Hello ktjayakumar,

In that sentence, 'yourself', a reflexive pronoun, can also be considered an indirect object, since the person who is to receive the drink ('yourself') is the same as the subject ('you'). Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there,
In task 2, 3 questions are wrong, I rewrite them. Check them and let me know whether they are correct or not.
1. I like to keep a few photographs with myself to remind myself of the old days.
Rewrite: I like to keep a few photographs and to remind myself of the old days.

2. She quickly washed herself and dressed herself as she was already late for work.
Rewrite: She quickly washed and dressed herself as she was already late for work.

3. There was a large number of star present. The director by himself was also there.
Rewrite: There was a large number of star present. The director was also there by himself.

Many thanks

Hello Fatemeh Roostaei,

The sentences could be rewritten in different ways to make them correct. I would suggest the following:

1. I like to keep a few photographs with myself to remind myself of the old days.

I like to keep a few photographs of myself to remind me of the old days.

After 'remind' in thsi context an object pronoun is used, not a reflexive pronoun.

 

2. She quickly washed herself and dressed herself as she was already late for work.

She quickly washed and dressed as she was already late for work.

We don't need the reflexive pronouns here as we are not emphasising that she did these things instead of someone else doing them for her.

 

3. There was a large number of star present. The director by himself was also there.

There was a large number of stars present. The director himself was also there.

The reflexive pronoun emphasises that the director is a special and important person. We could omit it but we would not use 'by himself' as that would suggest that he is alone, and we have already heard that there were many stars there.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, in the task 2 why the sentence " Although he kept a large collection of whiskies, he rarely drank himself" is correct?

Thank you

Hello Irene93,

I'm not sure why you would think this is incorrect, so it's hard for me to explain why it is correct! It is an example of the last rule on the page:

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

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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