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


Average: 4.1 (50 votes)

Submitted by McFackerson on Tue, 28/02/2023 - 09:18


In the following sentence, why is the use of yourself wrong. "You should leave at a time that is convenient for yourself" Thanks in advance

Hello McFackerson,

We only use reflexive pronouns with certain verbs and in certain expressions. 'convenient for' is not one of them; it is followed by the object form of a personal pronoun, not a reflexive pronoun.

The best way to know whether to use a reflexive pronoun or not is to check in the dictionary. For example, if you check this entry and look for 'convenient for', you'll see an example sentence with 'you' after it.

I wish there were an easier rule, but I'm afraid there's not!

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

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Submitted by Tony_M on Mon, 30/01/2023 - 00:25



I have found the following sentence in an exercise in the use of reduced relative clauses:

1. We have a number of techniques help us.

The task states that there is a mistake in the sentence, but it seems to me that there are two mistakes, not one.

2. We have a number of techniques to help ourselves. - 'a number' requires the to-infinitive and 'we' requires 'ourselves'.

I reckon that the sentence initially looked like this:

We have a number of techniques that help us. - in this case 'that' is the subject of the relative clause, and we can't use the reflexive pronoun 'ourselves'. But when we reduce the relative clause, we don't have 'that' anymore and can refer back to the subject 'we'.

Are there 2 mistakes in Sentence 1?
Does my explanation make sense?

Thank you.

Hello Tony_M,

I find this sentence to be a little unnatural, but taking it as it is written, I would say the correct version is 'We have a number of techniques to help us'. This is a 'have' + object + 'to do' (and sometimes other verbs) structure that is quite commonly used (e.g. 'I have a lot of work to do today', 'I have a number of calls to make').

Strictly speaking, 'help' is not reflexive because 'techniques' is its subject and 'us' is a simple direct object. That being said, there is a reflexive sense to the overall meaning and so I can see why you'd think that it should be a reflexive pronoun.

I'm not sure exactly what this sentence is about, but if I were writing, I'd probably avoid this structure because of exactly what you sense. I'm not sure if this would be appropriate in whatever context this sentence is from, but I would probably say something like 'We use a number of techniques to help us accomplish this task' instead.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you, Sir, for this thorough and clear explanation. I really appreciate it.

The sentence itself leaves much to be desired.
To reinforce my theory I was trying to find some additional examples, and I came across these:

1. Since most of us had to work in the garden during harvest time without pay we considered it a small compensation to help ourselves to the produce occasionally. (COCA, MAG: Huffington Post, Nothing Tasted as Good as a Head of Raw Cabbage)

2. We're sure to go under if we can't think of a way to help ourselves. (COCA)

3. We're ready, our folks are ready, we have the means to help ourselves, so don't get in our way and forbid us from doing that. (COCA)

4. Just because we still face this crisis doesn't mean we don't have any tools to help ourselves get back to work. (Washington Journal, Charmaine Yoest)

It seems to me that it might be one of those cases whereby there are two variants: correct (explained in your post) and commonly accepted (like in the above sentences).
Is it possible?
Thank you.

Hello again Tony_M,

Well, you've stumped me with this! I still feel 'We have a number of techniques to help ourselves' sounds unnatural and that I'd avoid it. Given especially sentences 3 and 4 in the new examples, which use essentially the same structure and which sound correct and natural to me, perhaps my verdict about the grammar of the 'techniques' sentence was wrong, and this certainly calls my analysis into question. I'm afraid the only thing I can say for sure is that that first sentence sounds odd to me whether it says 'to help us' or 'to help ourselves'. If I understand correctly, it came from a grammar exercise and so there is no context for it. Although I can appreciate you'd like to understand all of this better, I'd suggest not regarding the techniques sentence as a completely valid one since we don't know what it really means.

Among the four new sentences, note that the first one has a slightly different meaning compared to the others. 'to help yourself to something' means that you 'take something to consume it'. Hosts often say this to guests in their home ('Please help yourself to anything in the fridge'), for example, or shoplifters can talk about their thievery with this phrase to ('We helped ourselves to a few cold drinks when the shopkeeper's back was turned').

I'm sorry I'm not able to offer you a better response.

All the best,
LearnEnglish team


Hello again Kirk,

Thank you very much for another awesome explanation.

Sorry for sentence number 1, it somehow escaped my attention. Probably I was going to copy a different example, but eventually something sidetracked me, and I added the first sentence to my post. However, thank you again for broadening my horizons in terms of the knowledge about the construction 'to help yourself to something' - the information you've provided me with is very useful.

All the best,

Submitted by Abdallah Mo on Sun, 18/12/2022 - 13:45


Hello learnenglish team,
May please explain the difference between
Do you have any photos of you, and,
Do you have any photos of yourself.


Hello Abdallah Mo,

Only the second question is correct. Since the subject of the question is 'you', the same person who is in the photos, we use 'yourself' here. 

The phrase 'photos of you' is not incorrect in other situations. For example, 'Do they have any photos of you?' is correct. The subject 'they' is different from the object of the preposition 'of'.

Hope that makes sense.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by j0yyyy on Wed, 28/09/2022 - 13:37


Hey there!
Kindly let me know if the pronoun "itself" in the following sentence comes under the emphatic or reflexive pronoun.
"The horse hurt itself"

Hello j0yyyy,

In this sentence it has a reflexive sense - the horse causes the injury to itself; it not an example of emphatic meaning.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Risa warysha on Sat, 18/06/2022 - 09:16


Hallo teachers,
Could you please help me answer this question which I got from a test. Which is incoorect from the sentence "Commercially honey is heated and filtered in order to stabilize and clarify it." I answered "commercially" because it should be "commercial" modifying "honey". But my friend answered "it" because it should be "itself". He thought that the object "it" refers to "honey" so it must be reflexive pronoun "it".

Thank you so much for your response.

Hello Risa warysha,

I'm afraid it's not clear to me what the task was on the test. If you had to choose between 'Commercial' and 'Commercially' for the first word, I think the most natural would be 'Commercial', which is an adjective that modifies 'honey'. If you had to choose between 'it' and 'itself', 'it' is the correct option. It's a simple direct object of 'stabilize and clarify'.

Does that help?

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

The task is finding the incorrect word or pattern from the sentence. The choices are "commercially" and "it", one of which should be changed to make the sentence correct.

Hello Risa warysha,

Then I would choose 'Commercially' as the wrong word for the reasons I explained above.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by bibi on Tue, 23/03/2021 - 22:35

hello, Does reflexive pronouns have grammatical category of number? and if yes explain me please?
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Wed, 24/03/2021 - 06:59

In reply to by bibi


Hello bibi,

In the table at the top of the page you can see the singular and plural reflexive pronouns. Since some are singular and some are plural, they do have number.

I think I've answered your question, but if not, please feel free to ask again.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rissa on Thu, 18/02/2021 - 08:11

Hi, Is the word 'ourself' really exist? If yes, what is the difference between ourself and ourselves? Thanks in advance

Hi Rissa,

Yes, it does exist! Ourself is sometimes used instead of ourselves when a speaker uses we but is referring to a single person rather than a group of people. Here are some examples, where the speaker is referring to the listener, or each listener (i.e. a single person):

  • We must choose which aspects of ourself to express to the world.
  • Let's ask ourself a question.

However, some people consider this to be incorrect.

Best wishes,


Submitted by Shoaib50 on Sat, 26/12/2020 - 18:44

Hello Team, Which one is correct and need your explanation please ? 1. I love myself. 2. I love to myself.

Submitted by samira_kitten on Thu, 24/09/2020 - 12:22

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

Submitted by Naila on Fri, 17/07/2020 - 11:17

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

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Submitted by OlaIELTS on Wed, 03/06/2020 - 18:06

It's really enormous.

Submitted by H_L on Sat, 02/05/2020 - 00:01

Hello, 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?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 02/05/2020 - 07:44

In reply to by H_L


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.

Submitted by Chang on Thu, 30/04/2020 - 16:36

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

Submitted by guin on Sat, 11/01/2020 - 03:16

Hi. May I know why the answer to the following sentence in relaxive pronouns 2 exercise is 'myself' instead of 'me'? I attached the document to an email and sent it to _. The object is the same as the verb, so reflexive is used. However, isn't 'to' a preposition of place, therefore object pronounce is used? Thanks in advance!

Hi guin,

Reflexive pronouns can be used as the object of a preposition as long as the preposition is not a preposition of place. The rule is actually on the page:

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.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by guin on Sat, 11/01/2020 - 10:19

In reply to by Peter M.

Hi. Hmm.. isn't it 'to' a preposition of place, so reflexive can't be used here? Thanks!
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 12/01/2020 - 07:12

In reply to by guin


Hi again,

In your example, 'to' is a preposition of movement, not of place.



The LearnEnglish Team


Submitted by claireMaloney on Tue, 26/04/2022 - 15:04

In reply to by Peter M.


Hi there, is brought ourselves something to eat correct? Shouldn't it be we've brought something to eat for ourselves? because isn't brought for ourselves the fact that you've brought yourself? Bought ourselves something to eat, or am I just imagining things?

Hello claireMaloney,

Yes, with verbs such as 'bring', 'give', and 'buy', the indirect object can precede the direct object. 'We brought ourselves something to eat' is correct, just as 'I brought him a book', 'She gave me a pencil' and 'They bought us some food' are all correct.

In 'we bring ourselves', it's possible for 'ourselves' to be the direct object, but this would be a bit unusual. Context will usually make it clear what is meant.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by J Tan on Sun, 27/10/2019 - 02:08

Hello. I like to know if we may write as follows: 1) My sister saw the president himself and shook his hands. 2) My sister saw the president herself and shook his hands. Hope to hear from you. Thanks.

Hello J Tan,

Both sentences are correct.

In the first sentence, 'himself' adds emphasis to 'the president', underlining that the president is a special person.

In the second sentence, 'herself' emphasises that it was the sister who saw the president, not someone else.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Backlight on Wed, 16/10/2019 - 07:11

Hello,Good Afternoon. "OF" is not belonging to preposition for the reflexive pronouns? because the exercise said after of is also using reflexive pronouns.

Hello Backlight,

Do you have an example which you could quote? It is possible to use pronouns like myself, yourself etc after prepositions, but this is not because of the preposition, but rather because the verb or the meaning of the sentence requires it

For example:

He thinks of himself all the time.

We use 'himself' because we need an object and we do not use a normal object pronoun (him) when the subject is the same (he). In other words, it is not the preposition 'of' which makes us use himself here, but rather the verb and the sentence construction.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by gauravkandoria on Thu, 10/10/2019 - 13:37

Isn't the statement "Maybe in a while, if you behave yourself", a right answer to 5 question of exercise "Reflexive Pronouns 4".

Hello gauravkandoria,

The pronoun used in question 5 is 'we' (...can we have...), so a plural reflexive pronoun is needed (yourselves not yourself).



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ali sirous on Tue, 01/10/2019 - 11:55

Hi! Could you please be more specific about the position of reflexive pronouns for emphasizing, I mean, what does it mean if we use it immediately after the subject or if we use it at the end of the sentence? Thank you for your time and consideration

Hello ali sirous,

There is not a great difference, in my view, but I think placing the reflexive pronoun immediately after the subject makes the sentence sound more formal. It is less common and add more emphasis because it is more self-consciously rhetorical.

It's more common to place the reflexive pronoun at the end:

I myself have never done this. [more formal]

I've never done this myself. [more common in everyday speech]



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Elisa on Mon, 30/09/2019 - 11:51

Hello, is it possible to say: "He wants to improve himself." - as "to improve" already has a reflexive meaning in English? Wouldn't "He wants to improve all by himself." be a better choice for emphatic use?
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Tue, 01/10/2019 - 06:47

In reply to by Elisa


Hello Elisa

Although we do talk about 'self-improvement' and in a quick internet search I did find a page where someone talked about improving herself, to me it sounds a little strange to use 'improve' reflexively in this way. You could improve some specific skill or your living conditions, for example. 'all by himself' expresses the idea of him improving without anyone else's help.

If you explain the context a bit more, we can help you find a way to say what you mean.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anna from germany on Thu, 26/09/2019 - 08:05

Hello, Could you please tell me whether both of these sentences are correct: -I take a picture of me. -I take a picture of myself. Thank you. Regards, Anna
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Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 27/09/2019 - 08:24

In reply to by anna from germany


Hello Anna,

The second sentence (with myself) is correct.

You can describe a picture using a normal object pronoun (me, you, him etc):

This is a picture of me.


However, when an action is performed by a person on themselves, we use reflexive pronouns (myself, yourself, himself etc).

I took a picure of myself.


We also use reflexive pronouns when there would otherwise be ambiguity:

'Paul has a picture of him' could be about someone else (not Paul).

'Paul has a picture of himself' make it clear that the picture is of Paul.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by scoutie on Sat, 17/08/2019 - 22:03

Can someone explain why Shakespeare uses a reflexive pronoun in Act 2 Scene 1 of Twelfth Night: He left behind him myself and a sister, both born in an hour: if the heavens had been pleased, would we had so ended!

Hello scoutie

'myself' refers to the speaker; 'He' left behind two people, the speaker and a sister. English has changed quite a lot since the time Shakespeare was writing, and in any case, what his characters say is often in verse, which sometimes requires an extra syllable or two.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team