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Reflexive pronouns

Level: beginner

The reflexive pronouns are:

singular: myself yourself himself herself itself
plural: ourselves yourselves themselves

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:

Reflexive pronouns 1


Be careful!

We do not use a reflexive pronoun after verbs which describe things people usually do for themselves:

He washed in cold water.
He always shaved before going out in the evening.
Michael dressed 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.

Level: intermediate

We use reflexive pronouns as an 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.

We use reflexive pronouns as the object of a preposition when the object is the same as the subject of the verb:

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

but we use object pronouns, not reflexives, after prepositions of place:

He had a suitcase beside him. (NOT himself)

and after with when it means accompanied by:

She had a few friends with her. (NOT herself)

We use reflexives with the preposition by:

  • to show that someone did something without any help:

The children got dressed by themselves.
I prepared the whole meal by myself.

  • to show that someone was alone:

He lived by himself in an enormous house.
She walked home by herself.

We use reflexive pronouns 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.

Reflexive pronouns 2


Reflexive pronouns 3


Level: advanced

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 lying by 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.

Reflexive pronouns 4


Reflexive pronouns 5



thank you so much for your great help.

I think that there is a little mistake in the 3rd phrase of the first exercise. It should have "by" before the reflexive pronoun "myself". Am I wrong?
Thank you.

I'm afraid you are! It's fine to say 'I taught myself to play the piano' or 'She taught herself to program computers.'
We use 'by myself' with other verbs when we are saying that we did something without help. For example, 'I solved the equation by myself.' or 'My son tied his shoelaces by himself for the first time today!'
We also use 'by myself' when we are talking about being alone. 'I was at home by myself when I heard the news.' 'He was afraid to be by himself in the empty building.'
I hope that helps.
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Adam for your kind explanation. It really helps.

Hello Adam and Helen!
I have the same situation. When I finished second exercise I could not check my knowledge because the button "Check answers" was switch off. I think that is the technical problem.
Best wishes,

i dont understand what is required

Hello Dimitriy,
The 'Check answers' button isn't used on this type of activity. Press 'Finish' to see the answers.
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

i can not understand these
"Although he kept a large collection of whiskies, he rarely drank himself.
how can it right

This sentence means that he has many bottles of whisky, but rarely drank these bottles.
Perhaps he liked to have parties in his home and offer his friends whisky.
The LearnEnglish Team

This is very useful for me. Thank you very much.
By the way, how can I know that I had done which exercises?
This will help me to continue when I come back again.