Reflexive pronouns like myself, yourself, ourselves, etc., are used to refer to the subject in a sentence. Penlighten lists all the reflexive pronouns in English, as well as in Spanish, French, and German.
Make sure that you never use a reflexive pronoun in place of a personal pronoun.
Incorrect: Emily and myself are going shopping.
Correct: Emily and I are going shopping.
Pronouns are used to replace a noun, noun phrase, or noun clause in a sentence. For example, “David is a good boy. He always obeys his parents.” In this example, the noun ‘David’ has been replaced by the pronoun ‘he’, which also helps avoid repetition, and eases the flow of language. Pronouns are classified into several types as:
Reflexive pronouns are those which are used to refer to the subject in the sentence or clause i.e., to turn the action performed by the subject back to it. They usually end with either “self” (singular) or “selves” (plural). They are used to show that the object is same as the subject. Without a reflexive pronoun, a sentence will not convey the right message. For example, “Cindy poured her a glass of wine” will sound like Cindy poured someone else a glass of wine. However, if we use a reflexive pronoun in the sentence as “Cindy poured herself a glass of wine”, it will refer to the subject of the sentence, Cindy.
Identifying Reflexive Pronouns
Identifying reflexive pronouns is very easy. When the subject is doing something to someone else, it is NOT a reflexive pronoun. For example, “The dog is playing with it”. This shows that the dog is playing with something else. However, “The dog is playing with itself” shows that the dog is playing with itself.
● Jimmy bathes himself.
(Jimmy bathes Jimmy.)
● Diana is talking to herself.
(Diana is talking to Diana.)
● The Smiths love themselves.
(The Smiths love The Smiths.)
Reflexive Pronouns Vs. Intensive Pronouns
One can often get confused between the usage of reflexive and intensive pronouns, since they are the same. Intensive pronouns also include myself, yourself, herself, himself, yourselves, ourselves, themselves. However, the usage of intensive pronouns is different from that of reflexive pronouns. They always emphasize the subject (or antecedent) of the sentence, and are placed right next to them. For example:
● I myself am very shocked.
● We ourselves painted the house.
● The author herself signed the book for me.
Usage of Reflexive Pronouns in Sentences
● John was reading to himself.
● I am buying myself a pair of jeans.
● You should do yourself a favor.
● We treated ourselves to a hot sauna.
● Ashley gave herself a break.
● The kids are studying by themselves.
● I need to click a picture of myself.
● You should stop punishing yourself like this.
● My cat has hurt itself.
● Can you please serve yourselves?
● I cried myself to sleep that night.
● He loves himself way too much.
● Should we help ourselves with the drinks?
● I hope the kids behave themselves.
● They have injured themselves.
● She accidentally cut herself.
● I did it all by myself.
● He found himself lonely in the crowd.
● She was enjoying herself at the concert.
● The cat is licking itself.
Reflexive Pronouns in Different Languages
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Reflexive pronouns are not generally needed after verbs that describe actions that people generally do for themselves. For example, bathing, shaving, dressing. However, they can be used to generate emphasis. For example, “He is only three, but he dresses himself.” Reflexive pronouns are generally used with amuse, blame, cut, help, hurt, enjoy, kill, introduce, teach, satisfy, and prepare.