What are reflexive pronouns?

November 30, 2010pdf

Reflexive pronouns are words like myself, yourself, herself, himself, itself, oneself, ourselves and themselves.

Uses

A very common use of reflexive pronouns is to talk about actions where the subject and object are the same person.

  • The old woman killed herself. (Here the subject and object are the same person – the old woman.)
  • I am going to the shops to get myself some clothes.

Emphatic use

We can use reflexive pronouns as subject or object emphasisers. When used emphatically a reflexive pronoun means ‘that person / thing and nobody / nothing else’.

  • The manager himself said this. (= The manager and nobody else said this.)
  • I myself talked to him.
  • I will see the President himself if I have to.

Reflexives used instead of personal pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are used instead of personal pronouns after words like as, like, but (for) and except (for).

  • Everybody turned up except yourself. OR Everybody turned up except you.

By oneself / yourself etc

The expressions by oneself / yourself etc can mean ‘alone’ orĀ  ‘without company’.

  • She said that she would like to spend some time by herself. (= She would like to spend some time alone.)

No possessive forms

The reflexive pronouns do not have possessive forms. Instead, we use my own, your own, our own etc.

  • I always cook my own food. (NOT I always cook myself’s food.)

Reflexives not used

Certain verbs are not used with reflexive pronouns. Examples are: open, sell, feel, hurry etc.

  • Hurry! (NOT Hurry yourself!)
  • I felt strange. (NOT I felt myself strange.)
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