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 fell over and hurt myself.
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 intensively 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 intensively 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


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Submitted by Ali haider on Tue, 15/01/2013 - 08:09


i will have to more practice for correcting the mistake :)​​ 

Submitted by sinti on Wed, 26/12/2012 - 16:45


I got 80% up i think i have to work more . 

Submitted by trieuan on Sun, 16/12/2012 - 02:34


I finished very good. :)

Submitted by Advocaat on Tue, 02/10/2012 - 16:12


How difficult is this subject! But i will practice it more.

Thank you British Council. It helps me a lot.

Submitted by rabah.seoud on Thu, 30/08/2012 - 10:56


Hello, Why it's mentioned :

He always shaved before going out in the evening

Shouldn't we say He always shaves ??


Hello rabah!

You are also correct.

Let me explain you the difference as far as I understand. Please correct me if I am wrong.

"He always shaved before going out in the evening" means that he could go  out without shaving in the morning or in the noon but not in the evening.

"He always shaves" means that he prefers to be clean shaved no matter what time he goes at.

I don't think the time at (I am not sure whether the preposition "at" is correct or wrong. I always have a problem when it comes to prepositions.) which he shaves make the difference here. 
As I get it , in first sentence "He always shaved before going out in the evening" shaved is used to describe that he has got used to do it every time before going out in the evening. As in how he goes out  in the morning or noon is immaterial here. 

I think both the sentences are correct. But i couldn't quite understand the difference between two.

Submitted by Ibrahim Adam on Tue, 13/03/2012 - 17:48


Oh my God 56 out of 56 in reflexive pronouns.

Say something.

Submitted by oossaammaa on Sun, 12/02/2012 - 12:02


But could you tell me the difference between by yourself & for yourself?


Hello there :) Let's see:

You can go to school by yourself [that means you're doing it alone]


You can make a pie for yourself [you're the only one that will enjoy it].

By yourself = refers to the action itself, the way you're doing it

For yourself = refers to the results 

Hope this will be useful :-)

Submitted by samc on Sat, 04/02/2012 - 15:02



Can we not use the preposition by in final two examples of the reading material?

Submitted by Carlos Andrés … on Mon, 23/01/2012 - 18:26


Good morning Adam

I was wondering, why isn't  the reflexive pronoun “oneself” here?.

Thank you.

Submitted by Tsatsaanaa on Thu, 12/01/2012 - 11:35


Good evening! I want to know that why there is "was" in the last question of the second exercise instead of "were". I think it must have been "were" because of object is "stars". Let me explain it. I'm little bit confused. I'm not sure if it's my right or not. I'm just starting English by myself :)

Submitted by susiiemaya on Thu, 12/01/2012 - 09:08


hore!! finally, i can answer the tasks correctly.. big smile :D