An Effective Guide on Reflexive Pronouns and Verbs

The word ‘reflexive’ indicates that an action is ‘reflected’ back to the subject in a sentence. That is to say; the subject is both the doer and recipient of the action. Understanding reflexive pronouns and verbs can be very useful in communicating as they’re common in everyday language.

Reflexive pronouns and verbs indicate that the subject is acting upon itself. This article details reflexive pronouns and verbs, highlighting their usage in sentences.

What are Reflexive Pronouns and Verbs?

Reflexive pronouns are used to indicate that the subject and object in a sentence are the same. They typically end in -self or -selves and refer back to the sentence’s subject (person or thing).

Reflexive pronouns in English include ourselves, themselves, yourselves, yourself, myself, himself, herself, and itself.

Consider the sentences below.

  • She took her mum to the clinic.
  • She took herself to the clinic.

In the first sentence, ‘she’ is the subject, ‘took’ is the verb, and ‘her mum’ is the object receiving the action. In the second sentence, ‘she’ is the subject, and ‘took’ is the verb. But who did she take? Herself! The subject and object of the second sentence above are the same so ‘herself’ is a reflexive pronoun.

Reflexive Pronouns List

Reflexive pronouns always go with their corresponding personal pronouns. Here is a list of both.

  • “Myself” goes with “I.”
  • “Yourself” goes with the singular form of “you.”
  • “Yourselves” goes with the plural form of “you.”
  • “Himself” goes with “he.”
  • “Herself” goes with “she.”
  • “Itself” goes with “it.”
  • “Ourselves” goes with “we.”
  • “Themselves” goes with “them.”
  • “Oneself” goes with “one.”

When to Use Reflexive Pronouns

Now that we understand reflexive pronouns, what scenarios warrant their usage? Reflexive pronouns are used to indicate that a subject is acting on itself rather than on another object. They’re helpful when using the third-person plural. For example:

  • They pleased them.
  • They pleased themselves.

The first sentence doesn’t suggest who “them” is. It may refer to other things or the subject “they” in the sentence. The second sentence, however, provides a better understanding of who the object is. The reflexive pronoun “themselves” suggests that the subject and object are the same.

Reflexive Pronouns in Sentences

  • I hurt myself while playing football.
  • You should visit the doctor instead of treating yourself when you’re unwell.
  • The building collapsed on itself because it lacked a strong foundation.
  • She took herself out on her birthday.
  • Pull yourselves together; the exam is not the end of the world.
  • I cried myself to sleep every night when my father died.
  • He taught himself to play the piano.
  • You know yourself better than I do.
  • We have been preparing ourselves for the final football season.
  • I gave myself a treat when I got a promotion.
  • The students tidied up their rooms by themselves.
  • One needs to create time for oneself.

Reflexive Verbs Overview

A verb is reflexive if its direct object is the same as its subject. Reflexive verbs refer to any verb form whose grammatical object is a reflexive pronoun.

Typically, the subject in a sentence is the person or thing performing the sentence’s action. The direct object is the receiver of such action. When the subject is both the performer and the receiver of an action, the verb is termed “reflexive.”

Consider the following sentences.

  • My father taught me to speak French.
  • I taught myself to speak French.

In the first sentence, the subject ‘my father’ performs the action ‘taught’ on the direct object ‘me.’ In the second sentence, the subject ‘I’ performs the action ‘taught’ on ‘myself.’

Myself in the second sentence is a reflexive pronoun because the subject and the object are the same. Automatically, the verb ‘taught’ in the second sentence is reflexive.

Examples of Reflexive Verbs in Sentences

  • Be careful with the knife. Don’t cut yourself!
  • Jon introduced himself to the principal.
  • My dad taught himself to speak Spanish.
  • She hurt herself while playing with the scissors.
person holding on red pen while writing on book
Photo by lilartsy on Unsplash

To Wrap Up

Reflexive pronouns are words that refer back to the subject in the sentence. They typically end in -self or -selves and indicate that the subject and object in a sentence are the same.

Reflexive verbs are any verb form whose direct object is a reflexive pronoun. If the subject and direct object in a sentence are the same, the verb being performed is reflexive.

It’s essential to understand the proper usage of reflexive pronouns and verbs as they’re typically used in everyday language. They allow us to reflect on and point back to the subject of the sentence with clarity.

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

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