We use what is called a reflexive pronoun in our everyday speaking and writing. It certainly is not a hard grammatical concept to master the idea of the reflexive pronoun, but you might have to work a little bit to memorize them and to properly use them in a sentence. Read on to learn about the definition of reflexive pronoun, the ways in which this type of reflexive pronouns is used in English, and to practice using them in a few examples.
You might already know that reflexive pronouns are a bit different from the other kinds of pronouns. They cause the verb to reflect back on the subject. In other words, reflexive pronouns are used when the subject of the sentence is the same as the object of the verb of that sentence. Here is an example that might aid you in understanding this concept:
In this example, it is clear that the subject of the sentence, “I,” was not washing anyone else clean in the bathtub but him or herself.
Now that you understand how they work, here are the reflexive pronouns and their matching personal pronoun: “Myself” goes with “I,” “yourself” goes with the singular “you,” “yourselves” goes with the plural form of “you,” “himself” goes with“he,” “herself” goes with “she,” and “itself” goes with “it.” Also, note that “ourselves” goes with “we,” and that “themselves” goes with them.
Here are examples of all of these reflexive pronouns in sample sentences:
Since some of these sentences above contain other kinds of pronouns, make sure you can pick out the reflexive pronouns in each sentence! There are eight kinds of personal pronouns.Notice that in English in the singular form, reflexive pronouns are in fact gendered (himself, herself).
The reason that these reflexive pronouns exist is to make it clear that the subject is in fact doing something to itself. Instead of acting upon another object, the subject is acting upon itself, either literally or figuratively.
This is especially helpful when using the third person plural. Consider the following two examples:
In the first example, you can’t be sure if “them” is the same as the subject “they” – “them” could represent another group of people, or apples, or movies – the possibilities are endless and could be anything for any reason. However, you have a better understanding with the second sentence, because you know that whatever “they” stands for, it is the same subject as “themselves.”
No! In fact, reflexive pronouns are an important part of many languages worldwide. Many students are surprised to learn that in other languages, there are entire verb categories based around reflexive pronouns. In other languages, the placement and order of reflexive pronouns in relation to other pronouns critically changes the meaning of the sentence.
Here are a few more examples:
For more information about what a reflexive pronoun is, ask your English teacher for help, or consult an English grammar book.