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Reflective Pronouns: Introduction Of Reflective Pronouns In English And How And When To Use Them With Examples

Familiarity with Reflective Pronouns

Reflective pronouns are one of the types of pronouns in English that end in “self” or “Selves”. These pronouns are used when the subject and object of a sentence are the same. In Persian we use the word “self”. For example, I believe in myself.

English grammar may seem complicated at first. However, if you are familiar with its rules and practice, you will find that it is not difficult to learn. For this reason, this note examines reflective pronouns in English and the time and place of their use.


Definition of reflective pronouns

As mentioned, we use reflective pronouns when the subject and the object are the same. In fact, it means that not only the action of the verb is performed by the subject, but also its effect returns to itself. For this reason, these pronouns are known as reflective pronouns . Consider the following example:

She often looks at herself in the mirror

In this example, “She” is the subject of the sentence and “Look” is the verb of the sentence. But who does he often look in the mirror? The answer to this question is itself. In this sentence, the reflective pronoun “Herself” is used to refer to this issue.


Reflective pronouns in English are:

  • Singular : Myself, Yourself, Himself, Herself and Itself
  • Collectors : ourselves, Yourselves and Themelves

Types of reflective pronouns

Direct or indirect object

The final part of reflexive pronouns in English is the best tool for identifying them. They always end in “Self” or “Selves”. Another way to distinguish them is that these pronouns are always used as the object of a sentence and after the verb. For example, consider the following sentences:

I taught myself to play the guitar.

You know yourself better than anyone else.


Reflective pronouns can be used as direct object and indirect object in a sentence. 

In the direct object we can use transitive verbs.

I hurt myself cutting down the bush.

We have been preparing ourselves for the flu season.

When using the reflexive pronoun as an indirect object, the reflexive pronoun actually indicates why or for whom this action should be taken.

I bought myself a new car.

We will give ourselves a cheat day.

Reflective pronouns in English can also be used to emphasize a noun or pronoun. In this case, these pronouns are known as emphatic pronouns. In emphatic terms, it will not be meaningless if the pronoun is removed.

I wrote all the songs myself .

Tom’s not lying. Paul himself admitted it to me.

When to use reflective pronouns?

Reflective pronouns are used to indicate that the subject is doing something by or for himself. In fact, the actor targets himself directly or indirectly instead of affecting someone or something else.


Reflective pronouns in English show their importance well when the third person plural is plural. Note the following two sentences:

They amused them .

They amused themselves .

In the first sentence you can not tell if the pronoun “Them” refers to other people or to the same subject as “They”. 

In the second sentence you have a better understanding of the sentence because you know with the help of “Themselves” that the subject and the object are the same in this sentence.

You can use these pronouns with the word “By”. This type of use is to indicate that this operation was done without any other help. Consider the following example:

The children tidied up their rooms by themselves .

When to use reflective pronouns?

Common Mistakes

Some learners make mistakes when using two pronouns or a noun and pronoun. To better understand this issue, pay attention to the following sentence:

David and myself will be going to the movies.

After removing “David” from the equation, you will encounter a sentence whose subject is “Myself”. As mentioned above, reflective pronouns are used as the object of a sentence. We need the subject pronoun “I” in this sentence:

David and I will be going to the movies.

Although one of the uses of reflective pronouns is to refer to doing something alone, you should be aware that you should not use a reflective pronoun for activities that you normally do alone. You can see this misuse in the following sentence:

She washed herself in the water.

However, this is not true if the emphasis is on the speaker or the writer.

He bathed himself in spite of his broken hand.