Reflexive Pronouns in English

Reflexive pronouns are used much less often in English than in other languages. This explanation provides an overview to reflexive pronoun use in English with explanations and examples.

English Reflexive Pronouns

  • I - myself
  • you - yourself
  • he - himself
  • she - herself
  • it - itself
  • we - ourselves
  • you - yourselves
  • they - themselves

Here is a list of some of the most common reflexive verbs in English:

  • to enjoy oneself
  • to hurt oneself
  • to kill oneself
  • to market oneself
  • to convince oneself
  • to deny oneself
  • to encourage oneself
  • to pay oneself

Reflexive pronouns are used in three instances in English.

With Reflexive Verbs

Examples:

  • I enjoyed myself last summer.
  • He's trying to market himself as a consultant.
  • Sharon pays herself $5,000 a month.
  • We encourage ourselves to learn something new every week.

As an Object of a Preposition Referring to Subject

Examples:

  • Tom bought a motorcycle for himself.
  • They purchased a round trip ticket to New York for themselves.
  • We made everything in this room by ourselves.
  • Jackie took a weekend holiday to be by herself.

To Emphasize Something

Examples:

  • No, I want to finish it myself! (I don't want anyone helping me.)
  • She insists on talking to the doctor herself. (She didn't want anyone else talking to the doctor.)
  • Frank tends to eat everything himself. (He doesn't let the other dogs get any food.)

Problem Areas

Many languages such as Italian, French, Spanish, German, and Russian often use verb forms which employ reflexive pronouns.

Here are some examples:

  • alzarsi - Italian/get up
  • cambiarsi - Italian/change clothes
  • sich anziehen - German/get dressed
  • sich erholen - German/get better
  • se baigner - French/to bathe, swim
  • se doucher - French/to shower

In English, reflexive verbs are much less common. Sometimes students make the mistake of translating directly from their native language and adding a reflexive pronoun when not necessary.

Examples:

I get myself up, shower myself and have breakfast before I leave for work. SHOULD BE I get up, shower and have breakfast before I leave for work.

She becomes herself angry when she doesn't get her way. SHOULD BE She becomes angry when she doesn't get her way.