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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 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



Hello Gamaya,
As your question is about verb forms, can you please ask it on one of our pages about verbs? That way, other learners can see the answer too and learn from it.
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Peter. 

Why can't we use "They were feeling very sorry themselves." for emphasis just like the previous example, "I baked the bread myself." ?

Hi ahlong,
The example was actually designed to test one of the points in the description:
- as the object of a preposition when the object refers to the subject of the clause
He was feeling very sorry for himself
However, you are correct that, in certain contexts, we could use the reflexive pronoun in this way for emphasis - well spotted!
I will forward your point on to the editors so we can make the example less ambiguous.
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

you guys are doing a very good job thanks.

Thank you Decho!  It's nice to hear.
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

I would like to be an English teacher to speakers of other languages.
Please, could you inform me on any quality school in The UK?
Please can you inform me on when to use would and could?

Hello etinosa,
Thank you for your question.  I think the best place for you to look for advice on becoming a language teacher is our sister site, TeachingEnglish (click).  There you'll find information on teacher training, teacher development, teaching materials and resources and many other things.
Your question about 'would' and 'could' is quite general.  Both of these words have several different meanings so it's hard for me to say when each should be used.  A good starting point would be to look at modal verbs (click) as both 'would' and 'could' are examples of modals.  Then, if you have any specific questions about how they are used, you can post them and we will answer them for you.
Good luck with your learning and your ambition to become a language teacher!
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

i can't see the my laptop there is blank, just green square. help me pleace, why the Activities doesn't work?

Hello varaeztrella,
I’m sorry you’re having problems with the exercises. I’ll try to help you, but I’ll need a little more information, so I have a few questions for you:
- Do the exercises work on any pages, or are they all the same?
- Can you see videos and games on the site?  Can you see videos on other sites, such as YouTube?
- Which browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome etc.) are you using?
- Do you have flash enabled in your browser?  You can visit this page to check if you have Flash Player is installed, and to install it if not.
Once we have this information we’ll look at the pages and see where the problem might be.
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team