Reflexive Pronouns

reflexive (adj.) [grammar]: reflecting back on the subject, like a mirror

We use a reflexive pronoun when we want to refer back to the subject of the sentence or clause. Reflexive pronouns end in "-self" (singular) or "-selves" (plural).

There are eight reflexive pronouns:

  reflexive pronoun
singular myself
, herself, itself
plural ourselves

Look at these examples:

the underlined words are NOT the same person/thing
REFLEXIVE pronouns
the underlined words are the SAME person/thing
John saw me. I saw myself in the mirror.
Why does he blame you? Why do you blame yourself?
David sent him a copy. John sent himself a copy.
David sent her a copy. Mary sent herself a copy.
My dog hurt the cat. My dog hurt itself.
We blame you. We blame ourselves.
Can you help my children? Can you help yourselves?
They cannot look after the babies. They cannot look after themselves.

Intensive pronouns

Notice that all the above reflexive pronouns can also act as intensive pronouns, but the function and usage are different. An intensive pronoun emphasizes its antecedent (the earlier word to which it refers). Two important points:

  • We can remove an intensive pronoun and the sentence still makes sense. (If we remove a reflexive pronoun, the sentence no longer makes sense.)
  • In most cases an intensive pronoun can go before of after the verb.

Look at these example intensive pronouns:

  1. I made it myself.
    I myself made it.
  2. Have you yourself seen it?
    Have you seen it yourself?
  3. The President himself promised to stop the war.
  4. She spoke to me herself.
    She herself spoke to me.
  5. The exam itself wasn't difficult, but the exam room was horrible.
  6. Never mind. We'll do it ourselves.
  7. You yourselves asked us to do it.
  8. They recommend this book even though they themselves have never read it.
    They recommend this book even though they have never read it themselves.

Mini Quiz

Test your understanding with this quick quiz.

1. Reflexive pronouns refer back to the _______ of the sentence or clause.

noun phrase
a) subject b) noun phrase c) object

2. Complete with the correct reflexive pronoun: "The food's free, so help _______ ."

a) itself b) yourselves c) themselves

3. Complete with the correct pronoun: "Handsome guys like him love checking ______ out in storefront windows and mirrors."

a) himself b) themself c) themselves

Your score is:

Correct answers: