You are here

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 which one is correct
she needs to bring an umbrella with (her or herself)in case it rains.

Hello samira_kitten,

A reflexive pronoun is not correct here in standard British English -- the correct form is 'with her'.

Though really if I were writing, I'd probably not include the prepositional phrase beginning with 'with'. It's redundant -- in other words, the verb 'bring' already includes the idea. 

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

hi.can you help me to solve this test,please? how many variants are correct?I want to meet the teacher.... myself yourself. himself. .herself. ourselves. A.2. B. 3. C4. D. 5

Hello Naila,

You could use myself, himself or herself here, depending on the context.



The LearnEnglish Team

It's really enormous.


Can you please explain to me what are transitive verbs? or point me in the right direction? I couldn't find it under verbs here in the grammar section.

I always read it in dictionaries when I'm searching for a new word. I read what it means but I didn't really get it! I can't tell if verbs are transitive or not? Is there a list of transitive verbs I should study?

Hello H_L,

Verbs can be divided according to whether or not they take an object.


Verbs which have an object are called transitive verbs.

I patted the dog - the verb 'pat' has an object ('the dog'); it is a transitive verb


Verbs which do not have an object are called intransitive verbs.

I get up at 6.00 - the verb 'get up' has no object; it is an intransitive verb



The LearnEnglish Team

I understand now.
Thank you so much for this simple and clear explanation.

Hi, in eg " Do you have any photos of ___? We need one for the website."
"yourself" is key, so it means a photo taken by yourself or a photo about you?

Hello Chang,

A photo of yourself means that you are in the picture.

A photo you took yourself means that you were holding the camera.

Your photo could mean either.



The LearnEnglish Team