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

There was a large number of stars present. The director by himself was also there. can't understand why this one incorrect :

Hello behappy,

In this context, the reflexive pronoun is used for emphasis, not to mean 'alone'. As the sentence says that 'a large number of stars were present' it would be difficult for the director to be alone!

 


Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello The Learn English Team,
Why (She still dresses herself even though she's 93.) is correct, despite the grammar is (We do not use a reflexive pronoun after verbs which describe things people usually do for themselves, such as wash, shave, dress)?

Hello Jboul M,

This is explained above:

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.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Good evening,

I wish I could solve the exercises from the "Activities" section of the Reflexive Pronouns chapter but the windows have narrowed and I can barely see/read half of each sentence proposed for solving.
It seems there is an urgent need of an IT team intervention.

Hello Dragos,

Thanks for telling us about this technical problem, and we're sorry for the inconvenience. Our technical team is working on a solution and we hope it will be fixed soon. In the meantime, here are the answers to the first activity: 1. yourself, 2. ourselves, 3. myself, 4. herself, 5. themselves, 6. itself, 7. himself, 8. yourselves.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Teacher,

In this sentence: "Although he kept a large collection of whiskies, he rarely drank himself." I still do not understand why we use "himself" here. Could you please explain for me!

Thank you so much!

Hi vietlam248,

The reflexive pronoun here adds emphasis to the sentence. It means something like

...he rarely drank, though others did.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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