The use of reflexive pronouns in English (EFL/ESL grammar: rules, use and practice)

The use of reflexive pronouns in English (EFL/ESL grammar: rules, use and practice)

Reflexive pronouns are words that end in ‘self’ or ‘selves’and which are used when the subject and the object of a sentence are teh same, for instance : « she trusts herself ». Reflexive pronouns might function as objects or indirect objects. They

 are : my self, yourself, himself, herself, oneself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves. Check the following table where each reflexive pronouns corresponds to subject pronouns.

  • Note: It is the only area of English grammar that is reflexive.
You (pl)Yourselves

Note : if you use YOU in the plural, the reflexive pronoun is yourselves.

Examples :

  • My son likes to teach himself without my help.
  • I sawt myself in the mirror.
  • My dog always licks itself.
  • Everyone must respect themselves before respecting others.

The use of reflexive pronouns

  1. We use reflexive pronouns when the subject and the object refer to the same person or thing.

Examples :

  • He bought a present for himself.
  • I helped myself during the concert.  
  • She injured herself during thebasketball match.
  • I enjoyed myself at the football game.
  • The cat is scratching itself.
  1. We use reflexive pronouns for emphasis.

Examples :

  • The player signed the contract for us herself!
  • I myself took the money to her.
  1. In some situations, we use reflexive pronouns as ALSO.

Examples :

  • They were quite happy in the beach. I was at home happy myself

When NOT to use reflexive pronouns

  1. We don’t use reflexive pronouns with the following reflexive pronouns : (move, relax, remember, shave, shower, sit down, adapt, complain, concentrate, get up, hide, lie down, meet).
  2. we don’t use reflexive pronouns after a preposition of place. We use a personal pronouns instead.


He puts his book next to him.

By + Reflexive Pronouns

We use by + myself/yourself/himself (and others) when we are alone or not with anyone else.

Examples :

  • I went to school by myself.
  • My sister  was sitting by herself.

Reflexive Pronouns with Objects

You can use verb + reflexive pronoun + object when you do something for yourselves.

Examples :

  • She bought herself a pizza.
  • We helped ourselves have a drink.

Or, you can use verb + object + reflexive pronoun when you want to emphasize that another person did not do the action (or assist).

Examples :

  • I told them everything myself.
  • She did the housework herself.  
  • My sister spoke to her boss herself about the promotion.


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