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

Sir i am facing problem in rule "Some verbs change their meaning slightly when they have a reflexive pronoun as direct object:" I make mistake here and unable to form sentences because i do not get to know the word i used there is correct or not"
2 question what do we mean by direct and indirect objects?

Hello jalaj,

A direct object is a noun or pronoun on which the action of a verb is done.

An indirect object is the noun or pronoun for whom the action of the verb is done or who receives the direct object. The indirect object is often preceded by a preposition. There must be a direct object to have an indirect object; we do not have indirect objects on their own.

For example, in these sentences the direct object is 'the book'; the indirect object is underlined:

I gave him the book.

I gave the book to him.

You can find more information on this here.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks a lot for the exercises
In exercise 2 question 1, is it incorrect because feel very sorry is a verb like wash (usually done for themselves)?

Hello colorin,

The sentence should be 'sorry for themselves'. In this case, the reflexive pronoun is the object of a preposition and this object refers to the subject of the clause. You can find two other examples of this in the explanation above:

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

Hope this helps!

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Teachers,
About question number 2 why is it correct?.As you said that we do not use a reflexive pronoun after verb which describe things people usually do for themselves, such as wash, shave and dress.

Hello princeherry,

You are correct that the explantion says that 'we do not use a reflexive pronoun after verbs which describe things people usually do for themselves, such as wash, shave, dress'. However, it goes on to say that 'we only use reflexives with these verbs for emphasis'. In question 2, the reflexive pronoun is for emphasis, underlining the fact that in spite of her age she does not need help with the activity.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear teacher about question number 8 why is incorrect?
as u said We use a reflexive pronoun...
• with the preposition by when we want to show that someone did something alone and/or without any help.
please explain.
thanks

Hello raneemeh,

The error in number 8 in the second exercise is that 'by myself' should come at the end of the sentence. 'by myself' normally goes somewhere in the predicate, i.e. after the verb.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello everybody, hello teachers,

In exercise 1, question 6: It's a very clever machine. It turns ............... off. (itself is the answer)

Why don't we put the reflexive pronoun at the end as one of the rules you explained is : "We often put the reflexive pronoun at the end of the clause when we are using it for emphasis".

For me it sounds better when I say : "It's a very clever machine. It turns off itself".

Thank you in advance four your explanation.

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