Reflexive Pronouns in English

Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive Pronouns in English are formed by adding the endings -self (in the singular) and -selves (in the plural) to the possessive pronouns my, our, your, the personal pronouns him, her, it, them, and the indefinite pronoun one. When the Subject and the Object in a sentence refer to the same person or thing we use a Reflexive Pronoun. 

What are reflexive pronouns?

Reflexive pronouns have the categories of person, number, and gender in the third person singular.

1st person2nd person3rd person
SINGULARmyselfyourselfhimself, herself, itself
PLURALourselvesyourselvesthemselves

Use of reflexive pronouns

The archaic pronoun of the second person singular is thyself. Reflexive pronouns refer to the subject of the sentence in which they are used, indicating that the action performed by the doer passes back to him or is associated with him. In the sentence they are usually used as direct objects

  • In that moment of emotion he betrayed the Forsyte in him — for­got himself, his interests, his property — was capable of almost anything…

Reflexive pronouns may be used as predicatives

  • When she came back she was herself again

Reflexive pronouns preceded by a preposition may be used as indi­rect prepositional objects, as attributes and as adverbial modifiers

  • He could not see that it would be better to make her feel that she was competing with herself…
  • “I fancied you looked a little downcast when you came in,” she ventured to observe, anxious to keep away from the subject of herself
  • If June did not like this, she could have an allowance and live by herself

Reflexive pronouns may be used to form the reflexive voice (in this case reflexive pronouns are structural words):

  • Undressing again, she washed herself intensively…
  • And then I dressed myself and came away to find you

Usually English reflexive pronouns indicate “myself”:

  • I made a sandwich for myself
  • We watched ourselves in the video

Personal pronouns me, you, him, etc. should not be used instead of reflexives when they have the same number and gender as the subject. This can affect the overall meaning of the sentence. Compare:

  • When the police came in, the gunman shot him
  • When the police came in, the gunman shot himself

Reflexive pronouns are also used after prepositions:

  • Не is old enough to look after himself

Reflexive pronouns are used in a number of established expressions:

  • We really enjoyed ourselves
  • The children behave themselves
  • Please make yourself at home
  • I don’t want to be here by myself

Places are used after prepositions, pronouns me, you, him, her, etc.:

  • I saw a girl behind me
    The boy is standing next to her

When are reflexive pronouns not used?

There are verbs that are not followed by reflexive pronouns: afford, approach, complain, concentrate, decide, feel + adverb, get up, hurry (up), lie down, meet, remember, rest, relax, sit down, stand up, wake up, wonder, worry, etc. Reflexive pronouns are usually not used after the verbs change (clothes), dress and wash, except when talking about the fact that the action is difficult to perform.

Examples

  • I got up, shaved, washed and dressed
  • I feel great after having completed this work
  • What time shall we meet?

Sometimes reflexive pronouns are used emphatically:

  • Moreover, Soames himself disliked the thought of that
  • She was never idle, it seemed to him, and he envied her now that he himself was idle nearly all his time
  • I’m not going to do it for you. You can do it yourself

Video – Reflexive pronouns | The parts of speech | Grammar | Khan Academy

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