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

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.

Hello Mypink,

'Turn off' is a separable multi-word verb. That means that the object can go between the main verb ('turn') and the particle ('off'), or after the particle:

I turned the light off.

I turned off the light.

However, if the object is a pronoun, it must go before the particle:

I turned it off.

'Itself' is a reflexive pronoun and follows the rule for other pronouns. Therefore we must use it before the particle:

The machine turned itself off.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello marwalosny,
'himself ' in the sentence means ' alone '.
regards,
Shadyar

Hello shadyar,

Thank you for trying to help another user. However, this is not the correct explanation. In the sentence 'himself' simply emphasises that the man is doing (or not doing) the drinking, not another person. It does not tell us if he is alone or with others. To mean that, we would use the phrase 'by himself'.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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