Reflexive pronouns are used to refer back to the subject of the sentence or clause. They end in “-self” (for singular nouns) or “-selves” (for plural nouns).
There are nine reflexive pronouns:
The important point about reflexive pronouns is that only the subjects can perform the action to themselves. In other words, this:
- Peter tripped myself. → WRONG: Only “I” can trip “myself.”
- Peter tripped himself. → RIGHT
- We blamed themselves. → WRONG: Only “they” can blame “themselves.”
- We blamed ourselves. → RIGHT
- Rigby and Mordecai helped yourselves to free doughnuts. → WRONG: Only “you” can help “yourselves.”
- Rigby and Mordecai helped themselves to free doughnuts. → RIGHT
Here are some more examples:
- Nan needs to learn to trust herself.
- When Peter learned that he had won the lottery, he pinched himself.
- Whenever I do something stupid, I berate myself.
- Peter’s cat drove itself to the veterinarian’s office.
Intensive pronouns use reflexive pronouns to add emphasis to the subject of the sentence. You will almost always find the intensive pronoun directly after the noun or pronoun it is modifying, but it is not a requirement.
One way to tell whether myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, oneself, themselves, yourselves, and ourselves are functioning as reflexive pronouns or intensive pronouns is to delete them from the sentence. If the sentence still makes sense, it's an intensive pronoun; if it doesn’t, it’s a reflexive pronoun.
- I myself prefer to read books after dinner.
If we delete “myself” from the above sentence, we would have “I prefer to read books after dinner,” so myself is functioning as an intensive pronoun.
- Peter will surely blame himself for losing his phone.
If we delete “himself” from the above sentence, we would have “Peter will surely blame for losing his phone,” which doesn’t make sense. Therefore, himself is a reflexive pronoun.
Here are a few more example sentences with intensive pronouns:
- Tomorrow’s meeting will be led by none other than Nan herself.
- The mayor of the city approved the school’s new dress code himself.
- The students themselves have asked for more homework from teachers.
- Arima himself will take care of this troublesome ghoul.