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Reflexive Pronouns

What are Reflexive Pronouns?
Reflexive pronouns are a group of pronouns that are used to emphasize, that the subject and object of a sentence are the same. When the subject and object of a sentence refers to the same person or thing, we use a Reflexive Pronoun.


Forms of Reflexive Pronoun

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There are only eight Reflexive Pronouns adding self (singular) or selves (plural) to personal pronouns form a Reflexive Pronoun. 

The Singular Reflexive Pronouns are: yourself, myself, himself, itself, herself

The Plural Reflexive Pronouns are: yourselves, themselves, ourselves

Examples of sentences using reflexive pronouns:

a) Harry shot himself.

Shot Himself

   In this sentence, we see that Harry shot Harry, and that no one else was responsible for that action but Harry alone.  We use a        reflexive pronoun instead of using Harry twice in a sentence.

b) Sue bathes herself.
Bathes Herself

   Here we see that Sue is taking a bath and that no one else is bathing her. Therefore, we say Sue bathes herself.

c) They like keeping themselves fit.

Keeping Themselves Fit

    In this example, we see that the couple are lifting weights, to stay fit. Therefore, we say They like keeping themselves fit.

When NOT to use Reflexive Pronouns:
  • When there are a number of verbs with which we rarely or never use reflexive pronouns 
          They include: adapt, behave, complain, concentrate, get up, hide, lie down, meet, move, relax, remember, shave, shower, and            sit down.
  • After a preposition of place or location we use a personal pronoun and not a reflexive pronoun.
          She put the backpack next to her.

Note: The reflexive pronouns are never used to substitute the subject or object pronoun. 

            Wrong:  Raj and myself will study English together.
            Right:  Raj and I will study English together.

            Wrong:  Joseph and myself wrote the news article.
            Right:  Joseph and I wrote the news article.

When to use reflexive pronouns:

      1. When the subject and the object refer to the same person or thing.
          Example: The dog is scratching itself  it must have fleas!
       2. We use them to add emphasis to the doer of the action.

           Example: I did it myself.

       3. We use it we wish to express similar meaning.

           Example: Anna was very relieved last night. I was quiet relieved myself.

Most transitive verbs can take a reflexive pronoun as a direct object. However, given below are some of the most commonly used ones:
  • busy                      
  • content
  • express 
  • cut   
  • behave
  • blame
  • distance
  • prepare
  • teach
  1. I prepared the meal myself.
  2. John blamed himself for the mishap.
  3. The rowdy hooligans were ordered by the judge to behave themselves

In the case of intransitive verbs, the reflexive pronoun will follow any preposition used with the verb.

Examples: The baby laughed at itself while looking in the mirror.
                  Senility often causes people to talk to themselves
                  They were pleased with themselves for completing the task on time.

Remember, we generally never use a reflexive pronoun with a preposition of place.

Common preposition of place: in front of, behind, above, in, on, between, next to, below, under etc.

List of Reflexive Pronouns

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There are eight reflexive pronouns in English language:

      Subject Pronoun             Object Pronoun           Reflexive Pronoun    
 I  me  myself
 you (singular)  you  yourself
 he  him  himself
 she  her  herself
 it  it  itself
 we  us  ourselves
 you (plural)  you  yourselves
 they  them  themselves

Examples with Reflexive Pronouns

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  1. I wrote the entire script for the play myself.
  2. You have to complete the assignment yourself.
  3. The cat tried itself by running around needlessly.
  4. He fixed the engine of the car himself.
  5. She cleaned all three floors of the house herself.
  6. We must blame ourselves for the mess we have created.
  7. Pull yourselves together.
  8. They managed themselves very well at the conference.

  • We use verb + reflexive pronoun + object when we do something for ourselves.
  • We use verb + object + reflexive pronoun when we want to emphasize that another person did not do the action.
  • We use by + myself/yourself/himself etc. when we are alone or not with another person.

Exercises: Fill in the blanks with appropriate reflexive pronouns
  1. Go, do the work________. 
  2. People only have ________ to blame for their financial ruin.
  3. It is interesting to note how history repeats ___________over time.
  4. He bought _________ a new pair of shoes for his birthday.
  5. Sandra thought to________, this would be a very nice day for a picnic!
  6. I cried ________ to sleep last night.
  7. We helped _________ to the free drinks at the launch party.
  8. They injured ___________ during the football match.
  9. The author signed the book for me _________!
  10. Emma was sitting by________.

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