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

please, I want to know .....
why is this correct?

Although he kept a large collection of whiskies, he rarely drank himself.

Hello marwalosny,

I can confirm that the sentence is correct but I'm not sure how I can explain why it is so as I'm not sure why you think it should not be! Why does this sentence seem odd or surprising to you?

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi kahina_ch
Concerning your question , I would like to add this point that "food" is an uncountable noun and uncountable noun has just one form. It means that you can't add for example "s" to it .Therefore it should be used with singular verb. So "there are massives food…" is wrong. In the same way we say " There is some milk on the floor."Because milk is an UC noun.
Regards
Shadyar

Hello shadyar,

Thank you for your comment - it's great to see users helping each other. You are correct that food is generally an uncountable noun but note that it can also be countable if it has the meaning of 'different foodstuffs'.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi teacher,
Why the Question 6 is incorrect? It has some fomart like the example “He dressed himself in spite of his injuries.” Because "she was late for her work" is also want to emphasis.

Another question about direct object and indirect object. Can we use below method to check?
We can take the indirect object out of the sentences, then we will found the meaning of the sentence has not change. Is this method can be used or not?
One more question, "You might cut yourself." There is no indirect object in the sentence, right?

Thanks for your help.

Best regards,
Zheng Zhe

Hi Zheng Zhe,

The sentence is Q6 is incorrect because, as the explanation says, 'We do not use a reflexive pronoun after verbs which describe things people usually do for themselves, such as wash, shave, dress'. Your example is different because the person is injured, meaning that dressing him/herself in this situation was not something usually done - usually a nurse would help.

The method you suggest with indirect objects is not good in all cases. For example, take the sentence 'Give Paul the letter'. Here, 'Paul' is the indirect object and 'the letter' is the direct object. If we remove the indirect object we have 'Give the letter', which does not make sense.

You are correct with your third question - there is no indirect object in that sentence.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

dear
please i need to know the differences between
it is long time since they have enjoyed themselves
and
it has been long time since they enjoyed themselves

Hello hamadbaghdadi,

It's hard to be certain without knowing the context, but I would say that these two sentences have essentially the same meaning.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter..
I'm going to chat my friend in Arizona ... but it's been a long time we did not chat to each other
so which one should I use? 'It is long time since the last time we have chatted' or 'It's been long time since the last time we chatted'?

Thanks a lot for your help

Hello nick_axe,

There are lots of ways to say this but I think the most common would be:

It's been a long time since we last chatted.

It's been a long time since our last chat.

We haven't chatted for a long time.

Enjoy your chat!

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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