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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



Hello Urvi Dave,
The correct answer to question 8 is h, because the speaker is speaking to a group of people. 'Yourself' would be correct if the speaker was addressing one person.
Hope that helps,
The LearnEnglish Team

I did the activity myself.and enjoyed .

something is wrong with question no 8 in first exercise

Hello Mr. Caviroski,
I tested the first activity (Choose the correct reflexive pronouns to complete the sentences) and it worked fine for me. Can you be more specific about why you think something is wrong with it?
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

even i had the same doubt, but all i need to do is to ingnore it.

I congrats myself after every lesson.

I can study this by myself

i can't  understand  really

I don't see the difference of using reflexive pronoun as direct and indirect object. Can anyone help me please ?

I can't tell the difference either. In both cases, it's used because it refers to the subject of the verb. 

Hmmm... I think that the reason for the distinction is that the meaning of some verbs is altered slightly when the verbs take a reflexive pronoun as a direct object. This is not something you have to worry about when the reflexive pronoun is an indirect object.

Do you have any problems with the activities?


Jack Radford

The LearnEnglish Team