Reflexive Pronouns: Examples & Usage Tips


Understanding Reflexive Pronouns: Definition and Importance

The Definition of Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are words that refer to the subject of a sentence and are used when the subject and object are the same person or thing.
They are formed by adding the suffix –self or –selves to personal pronouns, such as me, you, him, her, it, us, and them.
For example,
“I saw myself in the mirror” uses the reflexive pronoun “myself” because the subject (“I”) is also the object of the sentence.
Reflexive pronouns serve an important role in language because they enable speakers and writers to clearly communicate who is performing an action on themselves. Without them, sentences can become ambiguous or confusing.
For instance,
“He gave him a gift” could refer to someone giving a gift to another person (him), but it could also mean that he gave himself (him). Therefore, using reflexive pronouns helps avoid any confusion about who performed an action on themselves.

The Importance of Using Reflexive Pronouns in Writing and Speaking

Using reflexive pronouns correctly is essential for effective communication in both writing and speaking.
These pronouns help clarify who performed an action on themselves and prevent ambiguity in sentences.
Furthermore, using reflexive pronouns can add sophistication to one’s writing style by demonstrating a command of grammar rules.
Using proper grammar is seen as a sign of intelligence and professionalism in many fields.
Moreover, failure to use reflexive pronouns correctly can lead to misunderstandings or even errors in communication that may result in negative consequences for individuals or organizations.
Therefore it is crucial for speakers and writers alike to understand how to use these important elements of language effectively.

Explanation of Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are a type of pronoun that refers back to the subject of a sentence.
They are used when the subject and object are the same person or thing.
The reflexive pronoun adds clarity to the sentence by indicating that the action is done by and to the same person or thing.
This is especially important in writing and speaking where clarity is key.
The most commonly used reflexive pronouns include myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves.
For example:
“I hurt myself while playing basketball.”
In this sentence, “myself” refers back to “I”, indicating that I was both the subject (doing the action) and the object (receiving the action).
Reflexive pronouns can also be used for emphasis in a sentence.
For example:
“She did it herself.” In this case, using “herself” emphasizes that she did something on her own without help from anyone else.
It’s important to note that not all sentences require reflexive pronouns – only those where the subject and object refer to the same person or thing.

Use of Reflexive Pronouns in Sentences

Reflexive pronouns are an essential part of English grammar and using them correctly can help make your sentences more precise and accurate.
These pronouns always refer back to the subject of the sentence, and they are used when the subject is also the object. Here are some examples:

Example 1: I hurt myself while playing basketball.

In this sentence, “I” is both the subject and the object of the sentence, so we use a reflexive pronoun to show that connection.
The word “myself” refers back to “I” and emphasizes that the person who was hurt was also the one playing basketball. Without using a reflexive pronoun, this sentence would not be grammatically correct.

Example 2: She taught herself how to play the guitar.

This sentence shows how reflexive pronouns can be used with verbs that describe actions done to oneself.
In this case, “She” is both the subject and object of the sentence because she taught herself something.
The word “herself” emphasizes that she learned how to play guitar without any outside help or assistance.

Example 3: They enjoyed themselves at the party last night.

In this example, we see how reflexive pronouns can be used with plural subjects as well as singular ones.
The word “themselves” refers back to “they,” showing that everyone at the party had a good time and didn’t need anyone else’s involvement or participation.
Using reflexive pronouns in sentences not only helps clarify who is doing what but also adds emphasis and precision to your writing or speaking.
When you use these types of words correctly, you demonstrate your mastery of English grammar and make your communication more effective overall.

Common Mistakes with Reflexive Pronouns

Incorrect use of reflexive pronouns

One of the most common errors when using reflexive pronouns is using them incorrectly.
The most typical mistake is substituting “myself,” “yourself,” “himself,” or “herself” for non-reflexive pronouns.
This error often occurs when people want to sound more formal or authoritative in their writing or speech.
For example, someone might say, “John and myself went to the store by ourselves,” instead of saying, “John and I went to the store by ourselves.”
Another common mistake with reflexive pronoun usage is not knowing when to use them correctly.
When do you use a reflexive pronoun? It is used only if the subject and object are the same person or thing.
Not knowing which situations require a reflexive pronoun can cause confusion in written and spoken language.
These errors may seem minor, but they can make a written piece less professional.

Examples of Incorrect and Correct Usage

To illustrate how easy it is to misuse reflexive pronouns, here are some examples:
– Incorrect: Me and John went to the store by ourselves.
– Correct: John and I went to the store by ourselves.
In this sentence, “me” has been incorrectly used instead of “I”. “I” should be used because it’s referring back to the subject which is John.
– Incorrect: He gave myself a gift for my birthday.
– Correct: He gave me a gift for my birthday.
Here we see an instance where “myself” has been incorrectly used instead of “me”. Again, since it refers back to an object that’s not identical with its subject; hence, it should be corrected.
Being aware of these common mistakes in your writing or speech will help you to avoid them.
The use of reflexive pronouns is vital in professional communication, and it’s always better to use them correctly than to appear unprofessional.

Advanced Usage of Reflexive Pronouns


Reflexive pronouns can also be used for emphasis.
This usage is called ’emphatic reflexives.’ In this case, the reflexive pronoun is used to draw attention or emphasis to the subject of the sentence.
Emphatic reflexives are often used in response to a question or statement where there is doubt about who did what.
For example, consider the following conversation:
A: Who ate all the cookies?
B: I did it myself.
In this case, B uses ‘myself’ for emphasis to show that he was solely responsible for eating all the cookies.
Another example would be:
A: Did Amy do her homework alone?
B: Yes, she did it herself.
Here, B uses ‘herself’ for emphasis to indicate that Amy completed her homework independently without any help from others.


Using reflexive pronouns correctly in writing and speaking is important as it helps with clarifying meaning and avoiding ambiguity.
Reflexive pronouns are critical in forming proper sentences in English language dialogue.
Advanced usage of reflexive pronouns can add clarity and emphasize certain aspects of a sentence.
By understanding their function and correct usage, writers and speakers can improve their communication effectively with others while avoiding common mistakes with these words.

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