Unit 9. Reflexive pronouns
- Reflexive pronouns can be direct or indirect objects.
- Most transitive verbs can take a reflexive pronoun as object.
- Reflexive pronouns can be the object of a preposition.
- Reflexive pronouns can emphasize a noun or pronoun.
1. The reflexive pronouns are:
Note that, unlike "you" and "your", there are two forms for the second person: "yourself" in the singular and "yourselves" in the plural.
2. You use reflexive pronouns as the direct or indirect object of the verb when you want to say that the object is the same person or thing as the subject of the verb in the same clause. For example, "John taught himself" means that John did the teaching and was also the person who was taught, and "Ann poured herself a drink" means that Ann did the pouring and was also the person that the drink was poured for.
She stretched herself out on the sofa.
The men formed themselves into a line.
He should give himself more time.
Note that although the subject "you" is omitted in imperatives, you can still use "yourself" or "yourselves".
Here's the money, go and buy yourself an ice cream.
3. Most transitive verbs can take a reflexive pronoun.
I blame myself for not paying attention.
He introduced himself to me.
WARNING: Verbs which describe actions that people normally do to themselves do not take reflexive pronouns in English, although they do in some other languages.
I usually shave before breakfast.
She washed very quickly and rushed downstairs.
See Unit 74 for more information.
4. You use a reflexive pronoun as the object of a preposition when the object of the preposition refers to the same person or thing as the subject of the verb in the same clause.
I was thoroughly ashamed of myself.
They are making fools of themselves.
Tell me about yourself.
Note that you use personal pronouns, not reflexive pronouns, when referring to places and after "with" meaning "accompanied by".
You should have your notes in front of you.
He would have to bring Judy with him.
5. You use reflexive pronouns after nouns or pronouns to emphasize the person or thing that you are referring to.
The town itself was so small that it didn't have a bank.
I myself have never read the book.
6. You use a reflexive pronoun at the end of a clause to emphasize that someone did something without any help from anyone else.
She had printed the card herself.
I'll take it down to the police station myself.
Did you make these yourself?
7. You use reflexive pronouns with "by" to say:
- that someone does something without any help from other people
… when babies start eating their meals by themselves.
She was certain she could manage by herself.
- that someone is alone
He went off to sit by himself.
I was there for about six months by myself.
You can also use "on my own", "on your own", and so on, to say that someone is alone or does something without any help.
We were in the park on our own.
They managed to reach the village on their own.
You can use "all" for emphasis.
Did you put those shelves up all by yourself?
We can't solve this problem all on our own.
WARNING: "One another" and "each other" are not reflexive pronouns.
See Unit 75 for more information on "one another" and "each other".