Reflexive Pronouns

“I saw myself reflected in her eyes.”

No, the above sentence isn’t a sappy love song lyric. It’s an example of a particular kind of pronoun called a reflexive pronoun. Unfamiliar with reflexive pronouns? Read on to find out all you need to know about them.

What Are Reflexive Pronouns?

Reflexive pronouns are pronouns that refer back to the subject of the sentence or clause. They either end in –self, as in the singular form, or –selves as in the plural form.

The singular reflexive pronouns are:

Myself

Yourself

Himself, herself, itself

Plural reflexive pronouns include:

Ourselves

Yourselves

Themselves

All of the above pronouns are used to rename the subjects of action verbs and function as different types of objects. If the reflexive pronoun is taken out of the sentence, it won’t make sense. Let’s look at a few examples.

Examples of reflexive pronouns

The following sentences are examples of the correct and incorrect use of reflexive pronouns.

Non-reflexive: Adam e-mailed him a copy of the report.

In this sense the italicized words are not the same person. Him is not a reflection of Adam therefore it is not a reflexive pronoun.

Reflexive: Adam e-mailed himself a copy of the report.

Here are the italicized words are the same person. Himself reflects back to the subject of the sentence which is Adam.

Non-reflexive: Allison accidentally cut her with the scissors.
Reflexive: Allison accidentally cut herself.
Non-reflexive: Brandon blames you.
Reflexive: Brandon blames himself.
Non-reflexive: Can you feed my guests?
Reflexive: Can you feed yourselves?
Non-reflexive: They cannot help the angry mob.
Reflexive: They cannot help themselves.
Non-reflexive: Carol poured her a glass of milk.
Reflexive: Carol poured herself a glass of milk.
Non-reflexive: The young girl was singing happily to them.
Reflexive: The young girl was singing happily to herself.

More examples of reflexive pronouns:

I gave myself 12 weeks to get in shape.
You should buy yourself a new computer.
Diane bought herself a new pair of shoes.
Jeff read quietly to himself.
The kitten groomed itself.
We treated ourselves to a night on the town.
The students are able to monitor themselves.

Reflexive Pronouns and Intensive Pronouns

Reflexive pronouns can also function as intensive pronouns but they act a little differently and they aren’t used in quite the same way. An intensive pronoun emphasizes its antecedent, or the subject of the sentence. These pronouns are positioned right next to the subject.

Examples:

I myself am tired of all this rain.
You yourself are to blame for this confusion.
The president himself wrote me a letter.
We ourselves cooked the cake.
The dog itself opened her fridge raider.
The boys themselves led the entire team to victory.

To recap, reflexive pronouns refer back to, or reflect, the subject and they always end in –self or –selves. There are only eight reflexive pronouns so remembering them and how to use them should be a snap.