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Reflexive Pronouns

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When the subject of a verb is also the object we use a reflexive pronoun.
She looked at herself in the mirror.
‘She’ is the subject and also the object in this sentence so ‘herself’ is used.

The reflexive pronouns are:
Singular – myself, yourself, himself, herself and itself
Plural – ourselves, yourselves, themselves

We use reflexive pronouns with most transitive verbs although some verbs have a slightly different meaning:
Please, help yourselves to drinks. (take drinks if you want a drink)
I found myself asleep on the sofa. (I was surprised that I fell asleep there)
She sees herself as a fashion expert. (She thinks she’s an expert but she isn’t really)

Here are more examples of reflexive pronouns:
Why don’t you by yourself a new TV? The one you’ve got is outdated.
He taught himself the piano.
The espresso machine switches itself off when it’s finished.
He loves talking about himself.
You need to protect yourself from the cold.
We built this fireplace ourselves.

We do not usually use reflexive pronouns with actions we normally do for ourselves except when we want to emphasise the verb.
Don’t help him; he’s old enough to dress himself. But – He dressed quickly and went out.

We usually use personal pronouns with prepositions of place:
She placed the bag on the seat next to her.
He brought his girlfriend with him to the party.

We also use reflexive pronouns to say ‘alone’ with the preposition ‘by’:
She lived by herself. – She lives alone.
I prepared this meal by myself. – nobody helped me.
And for emphasis:
I baked this cake myself – I didn’t buy it.
She created the company herself. – She is that good.

There is a difference between reflexive pronouns and reciprocal pronouns; ‘each other’.
John and Sarah looked at themselves in the mirror. – reflexive
John and Sarah looked at each other and smiled. – reciprocal – John looked at Sarah and Sarah looked at John.

Lesson by Tristan, teacher at EC Malta English school

Select the right word for these sentences.

  • 1) My neighbour built the extension by ___.

  • 2) After the meeting they shook hands with ___.

  • 3) She is quite capable of dressing ___. She doesn’t need help.

  • 4) I think my dad can fix the brakes of my bike by ___.

  • 5) He placed the box next to ___.

  • 6) They helped ___ get ready for the party.

  • 7) Would you like to help ___ to a drink?