Reflexive Pronouns

In the layman’s world when the Subject of the verb is also an Object, it is a Reflexive Pronoun.

·  Consider the following examples:

1.  She looked at her in the mirror.

2.  She looked at herself in the mirror.(Reflexive Pronoun)

Please note, that the meaning of the two sentences are widely different. In the second example, the Subject is also the recipient of her action, therefore the use of the word ‘herself’.

Reflexive Pronouns are words ending in –self or –selves that are used to indicate that the Subject and Object of the action are the same.

1.       They can either act as direct Objects or Indirect Objects.

A.      Example of Reflexive Pronouns as Direct Objects:

1.       Jack decided to take Mary out for dinner.( Mary is the direct object)

2.       Jack decided to take himself out for dinner.(Reflexive Pronoun where Jack is the direct object)


B.      Examples of Reflexive Pronouns as Indirect Objects:

1.       Ma made dinner for me every day.(I am the Direct Object)

2.       Ma made dinner for herself every day. (Reflexive Pronoun where Ma herself is the Indirect Object).

2. Forms of Reflexive Pronouns.

First Person

I/ We


He/ She / It/ They/ One




Himself/ Herself/ Itself/ Oneself





3. Reflexive Pronouns are mostly used with Transitive Verbs.

e.g.: I found myself asleep in the sofa. (Surprised)

She sees herself as a kind of fashion expert. (She clearly is not)

He taught himself how to fish. (Compelled by circumstances).


4.  We use Reflexive Pronouns with actions we normally do not expect of ourselves.

e.g.: She dressed and had breakfast in the kitchen.(Everyday routine, reflexive pronoun not needed)

Don’t dress him up. Let him do it himself. (Novelty in action. Reflexive Pronoun needed)


5. Reflexive Pronouns are also used with the preposition ‘by’, indicating doing something alone.

E.g.: She lived by herself.

I prepared this project by myself.


6.  Reflexive Pronouns are also used for emphasis. We can sense it being used only for emphasis since in its absence, the meaning of the sentence will not change significantly.

E.g.:  I took the blame myself. (Double insistence)

7.  Reflexive Pronouns are not used as Subject in a sentence but can be used with a Noun/Pronoun to add emphasis on the Subject.

e.g.:Parents, consciously or sub-coconsciously transmit on to their children what they themselves have been told.

In the loneliness of the night, Dad made dinner himself. (No one else to do it for him)


8.   Reflexive Pronouns are at time used for politeness.

E.g.: The N.G.O depends on the generosity of people like yourself.


9.  All the Reflexive Pronouns are used to rename the Subject of Actions Verbs as Objects. In absence of Reflexive Pronouns, the meaning undergoes a complete change.

E.g.:I designed myself a replica of the dress. (Reflexive Pronoun make it clear I did it for myself)

I designed her a replica of the dress. (I did it for someone else)

English Grammar and Composition

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