Reflexive pronouns examples

Reflexive pronouns in English (myself, herself…)


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A reflexive pronoun is a pronoun that refers to a person already mentioned (the word reflected is used in the sense of reflection, like a mirror, not in the sense of reflecting on something… understood?).

Here is the list of reflexive pronouns:

  • myself
  • yourself
  • himself
  • herlsef
  • itself
  • ourselves
  • yourselves
  • themeselves

oneself is an impersonal form, mostly used in dictionaries.

Here are some verbs frequently used with reflexive pronouns:

  • to clean oneself
  • to burn oneself
  • to cut oneself
  • to help oneself
  • to talk to oneself
  • to wash oneself
  • to look at oneself
  • to defend oneself
  • to dry oneself
  • to introduce oneself
  • to enjoy oneself
  • to see oneself
  • to behave oneself

They are always placed after the verb. A few examples:

  • Tina was looking at herself in the mirror. 
  • Be careful! You’re going to hurt yourself. 
  • The computer turns itself off. 

⚠ Depending on where it is placed, the meaning of the sentence is different:

  • He cut himself. 
  • He cut himself a piece of cake. 
  • He cut the cake himself. 

Reflected pronouns can have an insistence value:

  • Do it yourself. 
  • I’ll open it myself. 

⚠ By + reflexive pronoun reinforces the idea of insistence:

  • I was by myself (ou on my own) when it happened. 
  • Can you manage by yourself? 
  • He can’t do that by himself. 

⚠ In English, we do not use reflexive pronouns after certain verbs. These are mainly verbs about personal care and movement:

  • to worry 
  • to concentrate 
  • to dress 
  • to fight 
  • to relax 
  • to shave 
  • to wake up 
  • to feel 
  • to hide 
  • to get ready 
  • to get up 
  • to sit down 
  • to meet
  • to adapt 
  • to complain 
  • to remember 
  • to shower 
  • to lie down 

⚠ After a preposition of place (on, about, near…), a complementary personal pronoun is used and not a reflexive pronoun:

  • I haven’t got any money on myself me. 
  • She put her bag near herself her. 

⚠ Reflected pronouns can be used as the object of a preposition:

  • He made a cup of coffee just for himself. 
  • He was talking to himself. 
  • They had to cook for themselves. 

⚠ Reflected pronouns are used to emphasize the person or thing you are talking about, especially if you are talking about someone known (but it is not mandatory to use a reflected pronoun):

  • I met the King himself. 
  • Madonna herself sang at the festival. 
  • The President himself announced the news. 

⚠ Sometimes a thoughtful pronoun can be used to say ‘also’:

  • Sarah was pretty drunk last night. I was pretty drunk myself.

⚠ Do not confuse reflexive pronouns with reciprocal pronouns that serve to show a reciprocal relationship (each other and one another)! Each other and one another are interchangeable, although in principle each other is used more commonly than one another.

  • We love each other. 
  • We’ve known each other (= one another) for ten years. 

 

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