What Are Reflexive Pronouns?
The term 'reflexive' is derived from the word 'reflect', which is a helpful reminder that a reflexive pronoun reflects back to the subject of the sentence.
You can find a list of reflexive pronouns in the table below:
|Third||himself, herself, itself||themselves|
Now take a look at some examples:
Whenever I fail, I tell
In this sentence, 'myself' refers to a previously mentioned pronoun, which is 'I' .
They were arguing amongst
While in most cases the second-person singular and plural pronouns have the same form in English (You), this is not the case with reflexive pronouns. Specifically, 'yourself' is the second-person singular reflexive pronoun, while 'yourselves' is the second-person plural reflexive pronoun.
Necessity of Using a Reflexive Pronoun
Using an object pronoun to indicate that the subject and object of a sentence are the same is possible, but only when referring to the
In this example, using an object pronoun can indicate that the subject and the object are the same person.
But in second and specially third person, using this structure may lead to ambiguity. Look at this example:
In this example, it is impossible to determine if the subject 'He' and the object 'him' are the same person (he may have seen another man in the mirror).
Here, by using a reflexive pronoun, it is shown that the subject and object of the sentence are definitely the same.
Reflexive pronouns cannot stand as the subject of the sentence.
When to Use Reflexive Pronouns
Reflexive pronouns are used in a number of ways. Here are some of the main usages of these pronouns:
1. When Subject and Object Are the Same
Reflexive pronouns can function as both direct objects and indirect objects in a sentence. When the subject and object of a sentence refer to the same person, we typically use a personal pronoun or name as the
As you can see, the subject and the object both refer to the same person.
When a reflexive pronoun is used as an indirect object, it indicates why or for whom the action is performed. For example:
This is the same as 'I bought a new car for me.'
Sam makes a cup of coffee for
Or 'Sam makes himself a cup of coffee'.
2. When We Want to Emphasize the Subject or Antecedent in a Sentence
Emphatic pronouns, also known as intensive pronouns, are used to emphasize that the subject performed the action alone and without assistance. All reflexive pronouns can also function as intensive pronouns, the key difference is that the sentence would still be complete and meaningful if the intensive pronoun were removed. Thus, intensive pronouns are not necessary for the structure of the sentence.
I told my son that he has to do his homework
Here, if you delete 'himself' from the sentence, the sentence would remain meaningful and structurally complete, so 'himself' is an intensive pronoun.
Here, if you delete 'herself' the sentence would become incomplete, so 'herself' is a reflexive pronoun here.
Emphatic Pronoun Vs. Reflexive Pronoun
It's important to note that emphatic pronouns typically do not occupy the position of an object in a sentence. Instead, they are usually placed before the verb or at the end of the sentence for emphasis. In some cases, changing the position of the pronoun can turn it from an emphatic pronoun to a reflexive pronoun, or vice versa. Look at these two sentences:
In this example, 'himself' is placed before the verb and is an 'emphatic pronoun.'
In this example, 'himself' is placed in the position of an indirect object and is a 'reflexive pronoun.'
Intensive pronouns can follow "by" to emphasize that the action was performed alone. While it is not always necessary to use "by" in such cases, doing so can clarify the intended meaning and differentiate an intensive pronoun from a reflexive pronoun. Take a look at these examples:
Carl wanted to go to the party (by)
Here, it is emphasized that he wanted to go to the party 'on his own.'
I want to finish the race (by)
Or 'I want to finish the race 'on my own.'
Object Pronoun or Reflexive Pronoun?
He had a suitcase beside
As you know, 'beside' is a preposition of place, so we must use an 'object pronoun.'
She had a few friends with
In this example, 'with' is a preposition which cannot be followed by a 'reflexive pronoun.'
3. When We Want to Be Polite
Reflexive pronouns can be used to refer to someone politely. In this case, 'yourself' and 'yourselves' are used frequently but other reflexive pronouns are rare.
I think an educated man like
In this example, using 'yourself' instead of 'you' makes the sentence more polite.
We welcome gentlemen such as
4. When We Are Using a Reflexive Verb
Generally, if the object of a verb is a reflexive pronoun, that verb is called a reflexive verb. To be more specific, the subject and the direct object of reflexive verbs refer to the same person/thing. Look at the following example:
Here, 'threw' is a reflexive verb since the object and the subject refer to the same person.
Some verbs such as 'perjure' are
I couldn't believe it when Richard told me that he had
Examples of Reflexive Verbs
Using reflexive pronouns with certain verbs can change their meanings. Here are some examples of these verbs and their modified meanings. Remember that while using these verbs you can replace 'oneself' with any reflexive pronoun:
|Amuse oneself||Do something to pass the time|
|Apply oneself||Work and try hard|
|Content oneself with||Settle down for something less than one’s desire|
|Behave oneself||Act appropriately|
|Find oneself||Learn about and understand oneself|
|Help oneself (to)||Serve food/drink for oneself|
The meaning of these verbs is different when used without a reflexive object. Let us look at some examples of these verbs:
The ski lodge was closed, so we had to
In this example, if we omit the reflexive object, it does not mean to settle down anymore.
Carol said she needs some time to
'Find' does not mean 'to understand' without the reflexive object.
Impersonal Reflexive Pronoun
In addition to the reflexive pronouns mentioned earlier, there is one more reflexive pronoun: 'oneself.' 'Oneself' like 'one' does not refer to a specific person, can be used it in two ways:
- Like other reflexive pronouns, to refer to a previously mentioned noun/pronoun:
One must be careful not to put
'Oneself' refers to the previously mentioned 'one.' This sentence is the same as 'you must be careful not to put yourself in danger.'
- As the object of the sentence when there is no clear subject:
It's important to give
In this statement, it is not clear who the subject is, so we can use 'oneself' as an object.
Reflexive Pronoun for the Singular 'They'
In the past, people used the more traditional, more complicated, he or she as indefinite singular pronouns. But the singular 'they' can also be used for this purpose. So, when we do not want to mention the gender-specific 'he' or 'she' in our sentence, we can use 'they' and 'themselves' instead. We can also use him- or herself. They are all correct.
Everyone needs to take responsibility for
Themselves, herself, himself are all alternatives. We can use themselves in order not to mention the gender.
Everyone needs to take responsibility for
Everyone needs to take responsibility for
Reflexive pronouns are used to show the relationship between the subject and the object of the sentences. In English, they are; myself, yourself, himself. herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves.
Reflexive pronouns are the same as emphatic pronouns, but the only difference between them is the necessity of them in a sentence to complete the meaning. As you know intensive pronouns can be omitted from the sentence without changing the meaning. But a reflexive pronoun is necessary to complete the meaning.
|when subject and object are the same||
|when we want to emphasize the subject or antecedent in a sentence||
|when we want to be polite||
|when we use a reflexive verb||
- What Are Reflexive Pronouns?
- Reflexive Pronouns
- Necessity of Using a Reflexive Pronoun
- Impersonal Reflexive Pronoun
- Reflexive Pronoun for the Singular 'They'
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