Reflexive pronouns: form
A reflexive pronoun ends in -self (singular) or -selves (plural). There are several forms of reflexive pronouns:
|Personal pronoun||Reflexive pronoun||Example|
|I||myself||I walk by myself|
|You||yourself||You walk by yourself|
|She||herself||She walks by herself|
|He||himself||He walks by himself|
|It||itself||The dog walks by itself|
|We||ourselves||We walk by ourselves|
|You (plural)||yourselves||You walk by yourselves|
|They||themselves||They walk by themselves|
Reflexive pronouns: use
A reflexive pronoun, sometimes called a ‘reflexive’, is a pronoun that refers back to the subject of the sentence or clause.
We use reflexive pronouns in two main situations:
1) When the subject and object refer to the same thing.
She accidentally cut herself. (‘she’ and ‘herself’ are the same person)
2) For emphasis. For example, in the following sentences, the speaker wants to emphasise the subject of the sentence
She cleaned the house by herself (= she, not anybody else)
I’m not going to do it for you. You can do it yourself. (=you, not me)
Reflexive pronouns are commonly used when the subject and object of the sentence refer to the same thing, as opposed to personal pronouns which are used when the subject and object are different.
|reflexive pronouns||object pronouns|
|We call ourselves heroes.||They call us heroes.|
|He sent an email to himself.||He sent an email to me.|
|She baked a cake for herself||She baked a cake for him.|
Reflexive pronouns be careful! When not to use reflexive pronouns?
There are two main situations where you should not use reflexive pronouns:
1) After a preposition (use a personal pronoun instead).
She put the pillow down next to her.
2) With certain verbs (including adapt, concentrate, wash, dry, hide, lie, meet, move, complain, shave, shower, relax, complain and defend).
I really need to shower. (NOT I really need to shower myself)
I’m trying to concentrate. (NOT I’m trying to concentrate myself)
What’s the difference between -selves and each other?
We often use reflexive pronouns when the subject and object of the verb refers to the same thing. This is the case for themselves, or ourselves, which are used when two or more people are performing the same action, either as a group (themselves) or individually (ourselves).
Paul and Mary looked at themselves in the mirror. (= Paul and Mary looked at Paul and Mary)
We use each other when the subject and object of the verb refer to separate things. This is the case when two or more people are performing the same action, but to the other person instead of to themselves.
Paul and Mary looked at each other in the mirror. (= Paul looked at Mary and Mary looked at Paul in the mirror)