Intensive Pronoun Definition and Examples

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

In English grammar, an intensive pronoun is a pronoun ending in -self or -selves that serves to emphasize its antecedent. Also known as an intensive reflexive pronoun.

Intensive pronouns often appear as appositives after nouns or other pronouns.

Intensive pronouns have the same forms as reflexive pronouns: myself, ourselves, yourself, yourselves, himself, herself, itself, oneself, and themselves. Unlike reflexive pronouns, intensive pronouns are not essential to the basic meaning of a sentence.

Examples and Observations

  • "I have never yet failed to meet a deadline I myself have set up."
    (Pat Schneider, Writing Alone and With Others. Oxford University Press, 2003)
  • "He wondered, as he had many times wondered before, whether he himself was a lunatic."
    (George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1948)
  • "'Janis Joplin' was a name now associated with an image, one that had grown bigger than the woman herself."
    (Buzzy Jackson, A Bad Woman Feeling Good. Norton, 2005)
  • "Watching children make real progress in their language and literacy development is a reward with few rivals, especially because the children themselves greet their own accomplishments with such joy."
    (Katherine A. Beauchat et al, The Building Blocks of Preschool Success. Guilford Press, 2010)
  • "We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop."
    (Mother Teresa)
  • "It seems to me, that if you tried hard, you would in time find it possible to become what you yourself would approve."
    (Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre, 1847)
  • "When you, our white countrymen, have attempted to do anything for us, it has generally been to deprive us of some right, power, or privilege, which you yourselves would die before you would submit to have taken from you."
    (Frederick Douglass)
  • "Not until the problem​ itself is clearly diagnosed can a solution be found."
    (Toby Dodge, "Trying to Reconstitute the Iraqi State." Crescent of Crisis, ed. by Ivo Daalder et al. Brookings Institution Press, 2006)
  • "I found myself hoping that by the simple fact of extending some humanity towards poor old Ned, offering the unfortunate wretch some small degree of genuine understanding, that I myself had played some worthwhile role in this new and most welcome world of equanimity."
    (Patrick McCabe, Winterwood. Bloomsbury, 2006)

The Difference Between Intensive and Reflexive Pronouns

"The contrast between reflexive and intensive pronouns is well illustrated with sit down, an intransitive verb that can also be used causatively, e.g. She sat the child down. It can be seen that John sat himself down is a reflexivised causative, whereas John himself sat down and John sat down himself are intransitive, with an intensive pronoun that relates to the subject NP.

"Intensive pronouns are generally not placed in structural positions that could be filled by a reflexive pronoun. Watch is a transitive verb which can omit its subject--John watched Mary, John watched himself (on the video), John watched. In this case an intensive pronoun from the subject NP (John himself watched) would not be likely to be moved to a position after the verb, since it could then be mistaken for a reflexive substitute for the object NP.

However, an intensive pronoun could be moved after an explicit object NP (especially if there was a gender difference), e.g. John watched Mary himself." (Robert M. W. Dixon, A Semantic Approach to English Grammar. Oxford University Press, 2005)