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.



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



In 1 english book there is an exercise that i have to choose which sentences that has pronouns means independently. The sentences are as follows:
1. You shouldnt blame themselves for not passing the exam. It was difficult.
2. Mike's working part time. He has to pay for his studies himself.
3. Be careful with that knife-you dont want to cut yourself.
4. I grew these tomatoes myself.
5. Nobody helped us so we had to do it ourselves.
6. Please behave yourself. You are both very naughty.

I hope you can help me with this coz it really confuses me. Which of those sentences does the reflexive pronoun means without any help/independently....? That is the exact question written in the book.
I will be very happy if you can answer that for me. Thank you.

Hello Megay,

I suppose your book means sentences 2, 4 and 5, because in those sentences Mike doesn't get any help paying for his studies, you grew the tomatoes without help and we did the work without any help. I suppose that your textbook is referring to the following use (which I've copied from above on this page), but 'doing something independently' is more specific:

We use a reflexive pronoun to emphasise the person or thing we are referring to (e.g. Kendal itself is quite a small town.) or at the end of the clause when we are using it for emphasis (e.g. I baked the bread myself. / She mended the car herself.).

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much for prompt reply... You are very helpful.

When is reflective pronoun used independently?
A. Mike is working part time. He has to pay his studies himself.
B. Please behave yourselves. You are both being naughty.
C.i grew these tomatoes myself. careful with that knife-you dont want to cut yoursel.
Which of these sentences that has reflexive pronouns used independently?

Hello Megay,

I'm afraid I don't understand your question here. Some pronouns can be determiners ('I like this car') as well as pronouns ('I like this') and the latter use can be termed 'independent'. However, your examples include only reflexive pronouns which cannot be determiners, so this does not apply. Perhaps you could clarify what you mean, and we'll try to help.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team


I have a question that I try to search to found answer.
'I believe myself to be smart' is correct, but 'I want myself to resign' is wrong.
Could you tell me differences between them?


Hello Aruji,

When we say 'I want him to...' we are suggesting that he may not agree with our wish. It is not possible, logically speaking, for a person to disagree with their own wish: if they want to resign then they simply do so, and so it makes no sense to talk about your own desire in this way. The sentence is not grammatically wrong, but rather does not make sense.

In 'I believe myself to be smart' we are saying 'I believe that I am smart' and, clearly, this does make sense. This is different from the first example because it is an opinion about something which we may be wrong about. In contrast, we could not say 'I believe myself to love her' because we assume that we are not wrong about our own feelings - this would be similarly illogical to the first example.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi teacher,
Good day..
May I know, which is the correct answer?

1) Can she draw the tree herself? We will help her if her cannot.


2) Can she draw the tree herself? We will help her if she cannot.

Thank you

Hello shiitake haslina,

The second is correct.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team