Emphatic Pronouns

What are Emphatic Pronouns?

Just like reflexive pronouns, they are also compound personal pronouns, but they are used for the sake of emphasis.

The same words that work as reflexive pronouns, can work as emphatic pronouns too, e.g. myself, himself, herself, yourself, themselves, itself.

She herself closed the gate.
The pond itself is not very large.

Concept 1

Emphatic pronoun cannot be used as a subject or an object of a sentence, unless a noun/pronoun (that it is referring to) comes before it.

Himself will go to the doctor. (incorrect)
He himself will go to the doctor. (correct; A pronoun ‘He’ comes before ‘himself’)

Themselves managed the ship. (incorrect)
They themselves managed the ship. (correct)

Aanya and herself are doctors. (incorrect)
Aanya and she are doctors. (correct)

This is also valid for reflexive pronouns. However, unlike emphatic pronouns, reflexive pronouns cannot function as a subject (neither alone, nor as part of a subject phrase).

Concept 2

No matter how it functions in a sentence, an emphatic pronoun must be in agreement with the noun or pronoun, that it is used to refer to.

The boys himself went out to play. (incorrect; boys – plural, himself - singular)
The boys themselves went out to play. (correct)

She completed the project himself. (incorrect; she – female, himself - male)
She completed the project herself. (correct)

Concept 3

An emphatic pronoun can be used to emphasise the subject as well as the object.

Emphasising the Subject

When an emphatic pronoun emphasizes a subject, we have positional mobility. (i.e. we can move its position)

She herself cooks the food. (herself – emphasizing the subject ‘she’; it comes just after the subject)

She came herself. (herself – emphasizing the subject ‘she’; it comes after an intransitive verb ‘came’)

We made it ourselves. (ourselves – emphasizing the subject ‘we’; it comes after a transitive verb ‘made’ and its object ‘it’)

She cooks the food herself. (herself – emphasizing the subject ‘she’; it comes after a transitive verb ‘cooks’ and its object ‘food’)

Emphasising the Object

But when an emphatic pronoun emphasizes an object, we will put emphatic pronoun just after the object only.

I met Aanya herself. (correct; Aanya – object; herself – emphasizing the object)

Differences between Reflexive Pronoun and Emphatic Pronoun

Difference 1

While a reflexive pronoun reflects the action of the subject upon the subject itself, an emphatic pronoun just emphasizes the action of the subject.

A reflexive pronoun answers the question : whom ?

He cut himself. [himself - reflexive pronoun, since the subject’s (i.e. the boy’s) action of cutting refers back to the subject/doer (i.e. the boy); cut whom? - himself]

He himself cut the tree. [himself - emphatic pronoun, as it is just emphasizing the action of cutting done by the subject (i.e. the boy)]

In laymen’s terms, we can say that, when reflexive pronoun is used to emphasize something (i.e. noun or other pronoun) then we call it emphatic pronoun.

Difference 2

We can drop an emphatic pronoun from the sentence, without affecting the meaning of the sentence. That’s because emphatic pronouns do not add much meaning. They just emphasize the action.

On the other hand, if we drop a reflexive pronoun, the sentence won’t make any sense; it’s meaning would be lost.


He himself cut the tree. (himself - emphatic pronoun; we can drop it)
He cut the cake.

He cut himself. (himself - reflexive pronoun; we cannot drop it)
He cut. (cut what? … doesn’t make any sense)

Difference 3

Unlike reflexive pronouns (that are always used as object of a verb/preposition), emphatic pronouns can be a part of subject or part of an object.

I myself heard him say that. (I myself – subject)

We can also write the above sentence as follows:
I heard him say that myself. (I myself – subject)

It was told so by the professor himself. (professor himself – object of the preposition ‘by’)

Reflexive pronouns cannot work as a subject (neither alone, nor as part of a subject phrase).
Share on: