Reflexive Pronouns

Introduction to Reflexive Pronouns

In English grammar, pronouns hold a pivotal position. Among the various types of pronouns, one special kind is the 'reflexive pronoun.' This tutorial will guide you through the concept of reflexive pronouns, their rules, and how to use them correctly in sentences.

What are Reflexive Pronouns?

Reflexive pronouns are words that end in -self or -selves and enhance a sentence by referring back to the subject of the sentence or clause. These pronouns are used when the subject and the object of the sentence are the same or when the action is being done to oneself. They reflect back to the subject in a sentence. The reflexive pronouns in English are: myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves.

Examples of Reflexive Pronouns

Here are some examples of reflexive pronouns in sentences:

  • I taught myself to play the piano.
  • He cut himself while cooking.
  • She convinced herself that she was right.
  • The cat cleaned itself.

When to Use Reflexive Pronouns

Understanding when to use reflexive pronouns is vital for their correct usage. Below are the situations in which reflexive pronouns are used:

1. Emphasize the Subject

Reflexive pronouns are sometimes used to emphasize the subject or antecedent in the sentence. This means reiterating the fact that the action was carried out by the subject itself, not by anyone else.

For example:

  • John baked the cake himself. (Emphasizing that nobody but John did it)
  • I myself am responsible for the mistake. (Stressing that the mistake was solely mine)

2. Reflect the action to the Subject

Reflexive pronouns are used when the subject of the sentence performs an action on itself. In other words, when the subject and the object are the same entity, we use reflexive pronouns.

For example:

  • Sarah is looking at herself in the mirror.
  • The dog is scratching itself.

3. Indicate that the action is done alone

Reflexive pronouns can also indicate that the subject carried out an action on its own, without help from anyone else.

For example:

  • I did the entire project myself.
  • She painted the house herself.

Important Rules for Reflexive Pronouns

When using reflexive pronouns, there are certain rules one must remember to ensure accurate grammar. These are:

1. No reflexive pronouns after prepositions of place

It is incorrect to use reflexive pronouns following prepositions of place such as in, on, at, between, beside, etc. Instead, use personal pronouns.

Incorrect: He found his keys on himself.
Correct: He found his keys on him.

2. Certain verbs do not take reflexive pronouns

Verbs like rest, feel, concentrate, meet, relax, etc., do not take reflexive pronouns as they imply that the action is directed towards the subject.

Incorrect: She relaxed herself on the sofa.
Correct: She relaxed on the sofa.

3. Use reflexive pronouns as per the subject

Use the reflexive pronoun that corresponds to the subject in terms of number (singular or plural) and gender (male, female, or neutral).

Incorrect: I saw yourself in the mirror.
Correct: I saw myself in the mirror.

4. No reflexive pronouns with reciprocals

We do not use reflexive pronouns 'yourself' or 'themselves' after each other, one another, etc. These are reciprocal pronouns used to express mutual actions or feelings.

Incorrect: They gave presents to each other themselves.
Correct: They gave presents to each other.


Reflexive pronouns might seem a bit tricky initially, but with adequate practice, you should be able to use them effortlessly. They add depth and precision to your sentences and can be mastered quickly. Stay mindful of the rules and keep practicing. Happy learning!

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