What are Reflexive Pronouns?
A reflexive pronoun, much like its name, is a pronoun that reflects back on its antecedent. It appears as the object pronoun in a sentence that directs itself back to the subject noun or pronoun. For example, the word himself is a reflexive pronoun in the following sentence: Raul hates himself for betraying his friend.
Reflexive pronouns are few in number so it’s not a challenge to memorize or recognize them. They include the following: myself, yourself, yourselves, ourselves, himself, herself, itself, and themselves. Let’s look at some examples:
- It’s not easy for me to introduce myself in a room full of people.
- Goya hurt himself by playing on the trampoline all afternoon.
- You will learn how to take care of yourself when you start living alone.
- Finally, we revealed ourselves as the secret guests at the party.
- The team amused themselves by playing cards while it rained.
Reflexive Pronouns Rules
Talking about reflexive pronouns won’t be complete without including intensive pronouns. They are identical in form but function differently in sentences. Obviously, this causes confusion for English language learners and makes it difficult for them to distinguish one from the other. Remember that intensive pronouns highlight their antecedents. Meanwhile, reflexive pronouns indicate that the subject and object in a sentence are the same.
Here is a comprehensive list of reflexive pronouns with sample sentences:
|Myself||I kid myself when I say I’m over her.|
|Yourself||You drown yourself in your sorrow by staying in bed all day.|
|Himself||Palleo enjoyed himself immensely at the opera.|
|Herself||Lala hurt herself accidentally on her motorcycle.|
|Itself||Running in circles, the dog chased itself by its tail.|
|Yourselves||You can teach yourselves how to make your own handicrafts.|
|Themselves||The Air B&B guests bathed themselves outside when the plumbing broke.|
|Ourselves||We surprised ourselves at the trade fair with great success in sales.|
Examples of Reflexive Pronouns
1. Believe it or not, I saw myself as a famous actress a long time ago.
2. Dains fixed herself a huge dinner after hours of skating practice.
3. Hom found himself suddenly lost in the thick Borneo rainforest.
4. My children trained themselves to manage the household if my wife is sick.
5. I told Remus to help himself to a beer whenever he comes by.
6. We sort of convinced ourselves that Bobsy left for our own benefit.
7. If you want to make it to the finals, you must apply yourself more.
8. Why don’t you get over yourselves; this has nothing to do with any of you.
9. The cat caught itself in the mirror and jolted out of fright.
10. Aren’t you glad that you found yourself amidst the chaos of the lawsuit?
11. Romnick bored himself to death after offering Sheryl help with grading papers.
12. They evaluated themselves by recording their answers and checking together.
13. We shot ourselves in the foot with that project. We should’ve prepared more.
14. Sasha exhausted herself explaining a hundred times why the scheme won’t work.
15. “People who talk to themselves are actually healthy,” the doctor said.
Reflexive Pronouns Exercises with Answers
Exercise on Reflexive Pronouns
A. Choose the correct reflexive pronoun to complete each sentence.
1. She told ______________ that enough was enough.
2. You should control ______________ at the meet-and-greet.
3. My father supported _____________ through college when he was my age.
4. Her parents, who were dancers, saw _____________ in her when she showed great skill.
5. She treated _____________ to a luxurious dinner and was happy about it.
B. Identify if the pronoun in bold is reflexive or not in the following sentences.
1. Without telling her dad, Mi-an taught herself to operate the machinery.
2. Mitchell could write the report himself, but he should delegate the task.
3. Orlando squeezed himself into a tight corner to hide from the police.
4. We relaxed ourselves by meditating on a wooden platform by the beach.
5. You could always reinvent yourself. Madonna has done it several times.
d: She told herself that enough was enough.
b: You should control yourselves at the meet-and-greet.
c: My father supported himself through college when he was my age.
a: Her parents, who were dancers, saw themselves in her when she showed great skill.
She treated herself to a luxurious dinner and was happy about it.
1. Reflexive pronoun
2. Not a reflexive pronoun
3. Reflexive pronoun
4. Reflexive pronoun
5. Reflexive pronoun
Relative Pronouns List
There are only a few reflexive pronouns and they’re easy to remember.
- Myself – represents the writer or speaker
- Yourself – represents the person the speaker or writer is talking to
- Itself – represents an animal or thing
- Himself – represents a male person (may be used with a male animal)
- Herself – represents a female person (may be used with a female animal)
- Ourselves – represents a group including the speaker or writer
- Yourselves – represents the group the speaker or writer is talking to
- Themselves – represents a group excluding the speaker or writer
Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners
|Use Grammar Lists||Tools for language learning such as lists, tables, and charts can be extremely useful as grammar guides. They can’t totally take the place of books. But they are simplified versions of lengthy grammar references, making them convenient for quick reviews and side-by-side comparisons. The best way to utilize the technique is to make your own lists, which will naturally be personalized according to your own preferences and pace of learning.|
|Use Audio-Visual Resources||Self-studying can’t be avoided when studying English. If you haven’t yet, you’ll soon realize that you can’t rely on traditional English classes alone. Unless you’re studying at least 3 hours a day 5 days a week, you’ll find language goals slow to achieve. To fully take advantage of independent learning, you should utilize the right tools. English language media is one of these tools. By incorporating it into your daily routine, you’ll be exposed to how English speakers the language in social, academic, and professional settings. This will increase your vocabulary and sentence construction skills meaningfully as long as you consume media with the intention of learning language elements from what you watch or listen to.|
|Practical Use||If you spend most of your time studying books but don’t pay equal attention to actual English interactions, you could accomplish advanced proficiency in grammar but you would still have difficulty expressing yourself and talking at length. The only real way of utilizing what you’ve learned is to go out in the real world and apply it. Unfortunately, most English language learners live in places where English isn’t commonly spoken. If this is the case, there’s always a way to create an English environment where you can explore the language with like-minded people. Organize a study group with your classmates and friends; and if you can, nurture relationships with both native and non-native speakers. You’ll also develop social and cultural intelligence. Daily conversations in English are crucial and valuable. You can significantly improve your fluency in ways that books can’t.|
Common Errors Made by English Learners
|Using the preposition “with”||We NEVER use reflexive pronouns after the preposition “with” in instances when the meaning is obviously reflexive. Let’s take a look at the following sentences:|
– Sheila took her bag with herself.
– Jackson brought his suit with himself to the dry cleaners.
These sentences are wrong. The correct structure would be:
– Sheila took her bag with her.
– Jackson brought his suit with him to the dry cleaners.
In any case, omitting the prepositional phrases would work just as well.
|Using reflexive pronouns as a subject||There can’t be a reflexive pronoun without an antecedent, which is usually the subject or the object of a sentence. Without the presence of an antecedent, avoid using the intensive or reflexive forms of pronouns. For example:|
– The other technicians and myself will help you if you encounter some issues with the software.
The words in italics are the compound subject. The correct pronoun would be “I.”
– Between you and myself, you made the right choice investing with us. Their company is being investigated.
The words in italics are the compound object. The correct pronoun would be “me.”
|Using reflexive pronouns instead of reciprocal pronouns||There are two reciprocal pronouns: “one another” and “each other”. We use them when two or more people do the same action and receive the same effect. For example:|
– “I like him, he likes me” is equal to “We like each other.” Since reflexive pronouns mirror themselves, this can seem confusing to English learners. Be aware of the context. When two people are doing the same action and are receiving the same effects from said action, don’t use reflexive pronouns. For example:
– “I don’t understand Jim and he doesn’t understand me.”
This sentence is not equal to “We don’t understand ourselves.” The correct way of expressing this is “We don’t understand each other.”
Learning Strategies and Best Practices with Reflexive Pronouns
The following list includes points to remember when studying reflexive pronouns:
- If erasing the pronoun from a sentence doesn’t affect its meaning, then the pronoun is intensive. If the meaning of the sentence changes or stops making sense, the pronoun that was removed is reflexive.
- Sometimes called twins, reflexive and intensive pronouns both end in the suffixes –self or –selves. Nonetheless, it’s not as difficult to tell them apart as some would think. If the subject and the object of the sentence are the same, then the pronoun is reflexive.
- We use “by” means doing something alone or without outside help. There is some ambiguity with this rule as some references say “by myself,” for example, is intensive, while some say it’s reflexive. But if we go with the rule that reflexive pronouns as objects are receiving the action, then there aren’t any reflexive pronouns in sentences like “He brushed his teeth by himself.” because “teeth” is receiving the “brushing.”
- Some verbs are referred to as reflexive verbs because they can only be used with reflexive pronouns. You can’t use intensive pronouns with them: enjoy, introduce, teach, prepare, train, hurt, amuse, cut, dry, and kill.
Reflexive Pronouns Frequently Asked Questions
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