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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 Isuru Lakmal Galappaththi,

The phrase 'masses of' is a quantifier and has a similar meaning to 'lots of'. It is an informal phrase, used in informal conversation rather than formal situations.

You can use this phrase with both countable and uncountable nouns and the question of 'is' or 'are' depends on this:

There is masses of time. ['time' is singular so we use 'is']

There are masses of people outside. ['people' is plural so we use 'are']


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir,

Thank you very much for your effort to uplift our knowledge.

Best wishes.

hellow sir... am looking for online dictionary on your web how can I find it.

Hello Aishasubira,

There is no longer a dictionary on our pages because of technical changes by Cambridge, over which we have no control.

You can access the Cambridge Online Dictionary here:


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks sir.

OK here is one that I constantly run into: "For further information, please contact Mr X or myself." I maintain that it should be: "For further information, please contact Mr X or me."
The test I use is to drop the "Mr X". Therefore it would be: "For further information, please contact myself." Which makes no sense.

Hello AzzurroSI,

Reflexive pronouns are sometimes used in lists of people such as the one you mention, but it's more common to see a normal object pronoun. I, like you, prefer to use an object pronoun in such cases, but it is acceptable to use the reflexive pronoun in a certain style.

Nice work with your test – this is a great way to check grammar in general!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, can anyone help me explain why this sentence is correct ? "Although he kept a large collection of whiskies, he rarely drank himself".
Thank you

Hello Salie108,

It's correct because it fits the rules of the language. I think it would be helpful if you explain why the sentence looks strange to you, and then we can respond to that.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

or more like he rarely drink them