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


Hello Hany,
The problem with is with 'by himself'. It should go at the end of the sentence.
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team


I have a problem, when my load browser  this page, i get this error:

xml config loading error
instead of exercises, i'm using firefox 3.6.13

Could you help me?

hiiii. i'm donaa. i had this problem before so i made update for firefox form " help list "

I think in Activity 2, Question 1,  They were feeling very sorry themselves. may be right, just different meaning for They were feeling very sorry for themselves. In the above explanation, it mentions: 
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.
Can  we  use this usage in this sentence? Is  this understanding right?

 Hi Zhao Wei

This is an interesting question. 'They were feeling very sorry themselves' does not mean the same as: 'They were feeling very sorry for themselves'.

To feel sorry for someone = to feel pity. It is quite common to describe someone as 'feeling sorry for himself'.

The emphatic uses that you have written are quite right. In your first sentence: I baked the bread myself - you would emphasize that you (yourself) baked the bread because it is common to buy bread. 

Consider the following:

They fixed their car themselves (it is common to get a mechanic to do this for you).

Although it is not easy, I can think of a situation where the example in the activity might be correct. If anyone disagrees, please leave a comment.

Imagine a group of burglars who regularly break into houses when the owners are asleep in bed. When the owners wake up in the morning, they discover that their belongings have been stolen and they feel very sorry. The burglars don't feel very sorry because they only rob the houses of rich people.

One night, the burglars broke into and emptied a house as they did on most nights. In the morning, they heard on the news that the house belonged to a very kind man who had been collecting items to distribute at the local orphanage and that they had stolen all of the gifts for the children. That morning, they were feeling very sorry themselves (reflexive pronoun: emphasizing that they don't normally feel sorry.

I hope that I haven't confused you here with unnecessary examples. Please understand that the example I have written is a very unusual case and the phrase 'They were feeling sorry for themselves' is 100 times more common.


Jack Radford

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Jack!
I think your example is just perfect. Thank you very much for everything!

so interesting

i have problem in spoken ,anybody help me in online practice .

Hi, I have same problem, if u wish, we can help each.