What Are Reflexive Pronouns? (with Examples)

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What Are Reflexive Pronouns? (with Examples)

The reflexive pronouns are myself, yourself, herself, himself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves.

These words can be either reflexive pronouns or emphatic pronouns.

This page is about their use as reflexive pronouns.

A reflexive pronoun is used with another noun (or pronoun) when something does something to itself. For example:
  • John pinched himself.
  • (The reflexive pronoun himself tells us that John did something to John.)
Contrast the example above with this:
  • John pinched his sister.
  • (There is no reflexive pronoun in this example.)

Examples of Reflexive Pronouns

Below are some examples of reflexive pronouns. Using a reflexive pronoun means you do not have to repeat the subject (shown here in bold). (Repeating the subject would be clumsy.)
  • Alison still does not trust herself.
  • (Alison does not trust Alison.)
  • The members argued amongst themselves for an hour.
  • (The members argued amongst the members.)
  • We often ask ourselves why we left London.
  • (We often ask us.)
(Note: The subject is known as the antecedent of the reflexive pronoun.)

Identifying Reflexive Pronouns

In most sentences, somebody does something to someone else. For example:
  • I like him.
  • He spoke to her.
  • She thumped him.
  • The dog bit her.
However, sometimes people (or things) do things to themselves, and this is when you can use myself, yourself, herself, himself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves as reflexive pronouns. For example:

  • I like myself.
  • He spoke to himself.
  • She thumped herself.
  • The dog bit itself.
  • Some Real Examples of Reflexive Pronouns

    Here are some real examples of reflexive pronouns:
    • I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.
    • We forfeit three-fourths of ourselves in order to be like other people. (Arthur Schopenhauer, 1788-1860)
    • If the world should blow itself up, the last audible voice would be that of an expert saying it can't be done. (Peter Ustinov, 1921-2004)
    • If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must man be of learning from experience. (George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950)
    Note: Sometimes, the subject can be implied. For example:
    • The ability to delude yourself may be an important survival tool. (Jane Wagner)
    This could also have been written:
    • The ability of you to delude yourself may be an important survival tool. (Jane Wagner)