Reflexive Pronouns

What are Reflexive Pronouns ?

Reflexive Pronouns are compound personal pronouns working as object of a verb or a preposition, and referring to the same person or thing as denoted by the subject of the verb (i.e. subject and object of a sentence refer to the same person or thing).

Here action done by the subject turns back (reflects) upon the subject.


He forced him to write it. (‘he’ and ‘him’ refer to different people)
He forced himself to write it. (‘he’ and ‘himself’ refer to the same person)

How Reflexive Pronouns are made ?

Reflexive pronouns are called compound personal pronouns because we get them by adding –self or –selves to possessive case or objective case forms of personal pronouns.

  • The singular forms of reflexive pronouns are got by adding –self, e.g. myself, yourself, herself, himself, itself.

  • The plural forms are made by adding –selves, e.g. ourselves, yourselves, themselves.

I myselves have done it. (incorrect)
I myself have done it. (correct)

Also see this:
one – oneself

The word ‘self’ is sometimes used as a Noun. Basically, when ‘self’ is used alone/independently, it works as a noun only, and not as a pronoun.

She cares for nothing but self.

reflexive pronouns

Sometimes ‘themselves (or themself)’ is used to avoid saying whether the subject is male or female.

It is a very risky situation that these troopers find themselves in.
The first step of helping someone is to help themself.

Though ‘themself’ sounds like a logical singular form of ‘themselves’, and some people have started using it, but you should still avoid it in formal written contexts.

Reflexive Pronouns as Object

A reflexing pronoun is generally used as an object (rather than as a subject).

It may be an object of a verb, or that of a preposition.

He hurt himself. (hurt – verb; himself – direct object of the verb ‘hurt’)

He sent himself a note. (sent – verb; himself – indirect object of the verb ‘sent’)

A house divided against itself cannot stand. (against – preposition; itself – object of the preposition ‘against’)

In the above examples, the reflexive pronouns were referring to the subject. But they may refer to non-subject elements of a sentence too.

He reminds me of myself. (me – direct object of the verb ‘reminds’; myself - referring to the direct object ‘me’)

He sent me a snap of myself. (me – indirect object of the verb ‘sent’; myself - referring to the indirect object ‘me’)

That was a warning from me to myself. (me – object of the preposition ‘from’; myself - referring to the prepositional object ‘me’)

Concept 1

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

Rahul will do the assignment for myself. (incorrect)
Rahul will do the assignment for me. (correct)

Concept 2

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

She started hurting himself. (incorrect; she – female, himself - male)
She started hurting herself. (correct)

Reflexive pronouns as objects of Prepositions

Concept 1

After a preposition of place or position we use a personal pronoun, not a reflexive pronoun:
He put her bat next to him. (not himself)
Monica had the gems with her. (not herself)

Concept 2

Some prepositions are very closely linked to their verbs.
E.g. pleased with, be ashamed of, believe in, care about, do with, hear about, look after, look at, take care of.

In such cases, we use a reflexive pronoun when the subject and object refer to the same thing.
She came out of the exam hall looking pleased with herself. (not her)

Reflexive Pronouns and Verbs

There are some verbs which generally take reflexive pronoun as their object, and some don’t.

Let us study these verbs.

Verbs which take reflexive pronoun as object

There are some verbs which generally take reflexive pronoun as their object.

E.g. We use reflexive pronoun after these verbs - introduce, acquit, avail, reconcile, amuse, resign, avenge, exert, apply, adapt, adjust, pride, absent, present, accustom and enjoy.

They have reconciled themselves to the inevitable doom.

You will have to apply yourself to be more creative in this task.

Some of these verbs, which take a reflexive pronoun as an object, follow a particular pattern.


Avail + Reflexive Pronoun + of

We must learn how to avail of any crisis. (incorrect)
We must learn how to avail ourselves of any crisis. (correct)


Pattern 1: Enjoy + Object + (No use of reflexive pronoun)
Pattern 2: Enjoy + No Object + reflexive pronoun.

Everybody enjoys being with you. (object present, so no need to use reflexive pronoun)

Last night, I enjoyed at the party. (incorrect; no object, so reflexive pronoun needed)
Last night, I enjoyed myself at the party. (correct)

Present / Absent

Present/Absent – if they work as a verb, then we use reflexive pronoun.
Present/Absent – if they work as an adjective, we do not use reflexive pronoun

She absented herself for twenty days. (absented - verb)

The accused has to present himself in court tomorrow. (present - verb)

I guess Mragank is absent today. (absent – adjective, so no reflexive pronoun used; you may have noticed that here ‘absent’ is working as a subject complement.)

Verbs which do not take reflexive pronoun as object

There are some verbs which don’t take reflexive pronouns after them.

E.g. keep, stop, turn, qualify, bathe, move, rest, feel, relax, concentrate, sell, open, hide.

He hid himself inside the closet. (incorrect)
He hid inside the closet. (correct)

You should keep yourself away from bad company. (incorrect)
You should keep away from bad company. (correct)

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