Reflexive pronouns in English

Pronouns: reflexive (myself, themselves, etc.)

Reflexive pronouns end in –self or –selves. They refer back to the subject forms of personal pronouns (underlined in the example below):

We didn’t decorate it ourselves. Someone else did it for us.

subject pronoun

reflexive pronoun



you (singular)












you (plural)




Reflexive pronouns for same subject and object

We often use reflexive pronouns when the subject and the object of the verb refer to the same person or thing:

He cut himself on the broken glass.

She made herself a cup of tea and sat down in front of the television.

Parents often blame themselves for the way their children behave.

We use a reflexive pronoun to make it clear who or what is being referred to.


Agnes looked atherself in the mirror.

The subject and the object are the same.

Agnes looked at herin the mirror.

The subject and the object are different. Agnes is looking at someone else in the mirror.

Reflexive pronouns for emphasis

We can use reflexive pronouns for emphasis:

The director of the company wrote to us himself to apologise for the dreadful service. (orThe director of the company himself wrote to us to apologise for the dreadful service.)

We don’t use reflexive pronouns on their own as the subject of a clause, but we can use them with a noun or pronoun to emphasise the subject:

Parents and teachers always pass on to children what they themselves have been told, and this has been going on for hundreds, or even thousands of years.

Reflexive pronouns + by meaning alone

We often use reflexive pronouns with by to mean ‘alone’ or ‘without any help’:

Why don’t you go by yourself?

The children made the entire meal by themselves.

Reflexive pronouns for politeness

We sometimes use reflexive pronouns instead of personal pronouns for politeness, but not as the subject of a clause:

The National Trust is a charity depending on the support of people like yourself. (or … people like you.)


We don’t use reflexive pronouns with verbs of everyday actions unless we want to emphasise something:

She washed and dressed and had breakfast in the tiny kitchen.

Not: She washed herself and dressed herself

By |2016-10-26T13:29:08+00:00October 20th, 2016|1 ESO, 2 ESO, 3 ESO, 4 ESO, ESO, Grammar|0 Comments

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