How to Use Reflexive Pronouns

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We use reflexive pronouns when the subject both does and receives the action. We can also use them to emphasise that the subject did the action alone, or without help.

For example: 

She cooked dinner for herself.

Hello, nice to meet you. Let me introduce myself. My name is Paul.

The food is ready. Please, help yourselves.

Don’t forget to download your free reflexive pronouns cheat sheet at the bottom of the blog!

Recently, Kate covered this topic in her Friday Ask Us Anything Live on YouTube. You can watch the video right here:

Kate goes live every Friday to answer your English language questions! Do you have a question that you would like Kate to answer? Let us know! 😊

Study the table below:

Subject PronounsReflexive Pronouns
IMyself
You (singular)Yourself
HeHimself
SheHerself
ItItself
They (singular or plural)Themselves
WeOurselves
You (plural)Yourselves

Important points to remember

  • Use the preposition ‘by’ to indicate that the person did the action alone, or without help
    • He fixed the car by himself. (alone, without help from a mechanic).
    • She did her homework by herself. (alone, without help from a parent/teacher etc.)
  • Unlike many other languages, we do not use a reflexive pronoun with verbs that describe things people usually do themselves, such as wash, shave, dress, etc. 
    • George shaves every morning. (NOT: George shaves himself every morning.)
    • I showered before going out to dinner. (NOT: I showered myself.)

Reflexive Pronouns for emphasis

  • We can use reflexive pronouns to add emphasis to the subject we are referring to.
    • I couldn’t believe it, the band covered a Fleetwood Mac song and they brought on Stevie Knicks herself as a special guest!
    • Rafa Nadal himself was visiting the academy and awarded the winner of the tournament with the trophy.

Themselves Vs. Each Other

We use the phrase ‘each other’ to talk about two subjects who both do the same action to the other (rather than to themselves). Check the difference between these sentences:

  • John and Kim looked at themselves in the mirror. (John looked at himself, and Kim looked at herself.)
  • John and Kim looked at each other in the mirror. (John looked at Kim, and Kim looked at John.)
  • At the end of the party, the guests said goodbye and hugged themselves. (Each guest gave themselves a hug.)
  • At the end of the party, the guests said goodbye and hugged each other. (Each guest hugged the other guests.)

Download your free Reflexive Pronouns Cheat Sheet right here!

Practice Activity

Complete the sentences using the correct reflexive pronoun.

1. Emiliano made the brownies ____.

2. Did you build the wardrobe by _____? 

3. I looked at ____ in the mirror as I was doing my hair. 

4. She cut _____ with a knife while she was putting the cutlery away. 

5. He hurt ____ when he accidentally tripped on the rock.

6. I told the guests to help ____ to any fresh towels they need from the laundry cupboard.

7. Welcome! Please, take off your shoes and make _____ at home. 

8. You can pour _____  drinks while you wait for me. 

9. We’ve had so many guests recently, we have barely had a moment to ____.

10. We were so shocked when Mick Jagger ____ turned up to the after party!

This content was written and recorded by Intrepid English Teacher Kate B.

You can find out more about Kate B on her Intrepid English Teacher Profile Page.

Book a free trial lesson today to discuss this topic in more detail, and talk about your English learning goals with an experienced and friendly English teacher.

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