This post helps us understand what a reflexive pronoun is, how it is used, and when to use it.
What is a reflexive pronoun in English?
A reflexive pronoun reflects back on the subject. It is nothing but an image of the subject. Reflexive pronouns are used in place of the object of a verb or the object of a preposition when the subject and the object are the same person.
There are 7 reflexive pronouns in English:
- He just slapped himself.
- You are just thinking about yourself at the moment.
- I believe in myself.
- We shouldn’t doubt ourselves.
- You need to control yourself.
- She killed herself with a knife.
- The dog bit itself.
- The machine does not run itself. You have to start it.
Reflexive pronoun as the direct object
- I hate myself for doing this.
- You guys don’t appreciate yourselves enough.
- She needs to stop blaming herself for the loss.
- When there’s no one to motivate you, you need to motivate yourself.
- We are backing ourselves in the final.
- You should always keep yourself calm and composed.
Reflexive pronoun as the indirect object
- I gifted myself a beautiful watch last month.
- He did that to himself.
- She has taught herself everything she knows.
- We have bought ourselves a mansion.
- Jon calls himself a fighter.
Reflexive pronoun as the object of a preposition
- I am proud of myself.
- You should be ashamed of yourself.
- There’s no one in his family. He looks after himself.
- I am not thinking about myself.
Important points to note
A) Don’t use a reflexive pronoun as a subject.
People often make the mistake of using reflexive pronouns as the subject. This usually happens when the subject is compound.
Jon and myself are going to start a business together. ❌
The job of a reflexive pronoun is to reflect back on the subject…again, on the subject. So, it can’t function as the subject itself. When referring to a person as the subject, use a personal pronoun.
Jon and I are going to start a business together. ✅
B) If the object of a verb or preposition is the not subject itself, don’t use a reflexive pronoun. People often misuse reflexive pronouns here.
You can call myself at my number for any further queries. ❌
The subject of the sentence and the object are not the same; these are two different people. Since the object is different from the subject, we need an objective pronoun.
You can call me at my number for any further queries. ✅
C) Don’t confuse reflexive pronouns with intensive pronouns.
Both reflective pronouns and intensive pronouns look the same, but they both function differently in a sentence.
I encouraged myself to accept the project and went on doing everything myself.
In this sentence, the word ‘myself‘ following the verb ‘encouraged‘ is a reflexive pronoun as it refers back to the subject, but the second one following ‘everything‘ is an intensive pronoun. It puts focus on the subject ‘I’.
So, we can’t just call these words a reflexive pronoun or intensive pronoun without looking at what they do in the sentence.
- Sometimes, I feel I don’t know myself. (reflexive)
- I can’t do this myself. (intensive)
D) The reflexive pronoun ‘themselves‘, apart from referring to a third-person plural noun, is also used as a gender-neutral singular pronoun.
As a reflexive pronoun, ‘themselves‘ usually refers to the pronoun ‘they‘: a third-person plural personal pronoun.
But it is also used to refer to a gender-neutral singular noun.
A customer, the other day, shot themselves at the shop.
In this example, the reflexive pronoun refers to the noun ‘customer‘, which is a singular non-binary noun. It does not specify the gender of the person, and that’s why ‘themselves‘ is used as a singular gender-neutral noun.
- Why did the teacher kill themselves?
- The student kept blaming themselves for the low scores.
- Every person needs to stand up for themselves.
1. You and I need to motivate ______ and do it.
2. Every member of the team worked on ______ to get to this level.
3. My parents still blame _____ for my bad grades in school.
4. The car does not drive ____.
5. She will use any opportunity to talk about _____.
What is a reflexive pronoun?
A reflexive pronoun is a word that refers back to the subject. It is used when the subject and the object are the same person. Myself, ourselves, yourself, yourselves, himself, herself, and itself are the 7 reflexive pronouns in English.
What is the difference between reflexive and intensive pronouns?
Both reflexive pronouns and intensive pronouns have the same spelling and pronunciation, but what they do in a sentence is very different. A reflexive pronoun refers back to the subject and is used when the subject and the object are the same person. And an intensive pronoun is used to emphasize the subject.
1. I don’t know myself completely. (reflexive)
2. I have done all of this myself. (intensive)
Where do you typically put reflexive pronouns?
Reflexive pronouns are used in place of the object of a verb or the object of a preposition. 1. She does not appreciate herself. (object of the verb ‘appreciate) 2. We should not think about ourselves at the moment. (object of the preposition ‘about)
Where not to use reflexive pronouns?
Don’t use a reflexive pronoun when the subject and the object are different people. 1. We trust yourself. (incorrect) 2. I know herself very well. (incorrect)
Corrections: We trust you. I know her very well.
What is the full list of reflexive pronouns?
Myself, ourselves, yourself, yourselves, himself, herself, and itself are all the 7 reflexive pronouns we have in English.
Where do we use reflexive pronouns?
A reflexive pronoun is used in place of a direct object, an indirect object, and an object of a preposition.
1. She is always doubting herself. (direct object)
2. I love giving myself challenges. (indirect object)
3. Keep believing in yourself. (object of the preposition ‘in’)
Now, we know what a reflexive pronoun is and everything about it. Feel free to share your question, doubt, or feedback in the comment section, and also, share the post with the people that need it.
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