A Clear Guide to Reflexive and Transitive Verbs

Reflexive verbs vs. transitive verbs — How are they different? This article aims to explore the difference between the two. With so many grammar rules in the English language, even natives sometimes find it challenging when and how to use some specific terms.

Here’s a quick guide to enhancing your understanding of reflexive and transitive verbs in English.

Types of Verbs in English

In English, verbs can be either transitive or intransitive. By definition, transitive verbs add or call for an object afterward, but intransitive verbs can stand alone in a sentence.

Examples of Intransitive Verb:

  • I am sitting on a bench. Or I’m sitting. 
  • She is dancing on the stage. Or She is dancing.
  • He is sleeping on the bed. Or He is sleeping.

Examples of Transitive Verbs:

  • Jessy held her mother’s hand firmly.
  • We bought a new car today.
  • She was listening to music.

What Is a Reflexive Verb?

A Reflexive verb takes its subjects as its direct objects. It means that the same thing or person performs and receives the action of the verb. Reflexive verbs are frequently referred to as the “middle voice” when compared to the active or passive voice.

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Reflexive Verbs vs. Transitive Verb

Reflexive verbs are a special class of verbs in English because they don’t have their own distinct word or conjugation pattern. To identify a reflexive verb, you need to consider other words within a sentence. Reflexive verbs cause the subject itself to undergo the action of the verb.

Example: He hurt himself when he fell off the bike.

transitive verb always requires an object to receive the action of the verb. Transitive verbs must have a complement or an object immediately following them to make the sentence meaningful.

Example: The teacher addressed all the students’ questions.

Identifying Types of Reflexive Verbs in a Sentence

There are different types of reflexive verbs used in a sentence. Here are some examples for a better understanding.

Verbs With Reflexive Pronouns

It is easiest to spot reflexive verbs when reflexive pronouns are employed as the direct object and refer back to the sentence’s subject.


  • She intentionally hurt herself to gain people’s sympathy. (Herself refers back to the subject, Her)
  • I washed the dishes myself before going to work. (Myself refers back to the subject, I)
  • He baked a cake himself for the guests. (Himself refers back to the subject, He)

Implied Objects with Reflexive Verbs

There are some reflexive verbs that can also include reflexive pronouns as implied direct objects, which are thus left out of the sentence.


  • I always stretch before doing my daily exercise. (reflexive pronoun myself is implied.)
  • My brother is shaving in the washroom. (reflexive pronoun himself is implied.)
  • Jenny cleaned the dishes before going to school. (reflexive pronoun herself is implied.)

Intransitive Verbs in the “middle” Voice

Most reflexive verbs are transitive, with reflexive pronouns as their direct object. However, some intransitive verbs can also modify a subject that receives the action. This kind of verb does not take a reflexive pronoun or direct object in the middle voice.


  • The souvenir on the table broke in half. (Break is an intransitive verb that denotes what was broken.)
  • The cat disappeared in the dark. (Disappear is an intransitive verb that denotes what has disappeared.)
  • Laura collapsed when she heard of her brother’s accident. (Collapse is an intransitive verb that denotes who collapsed.)


To improve your language comprehension, writing, and speaking skills, it is vital to gain a deeper understanding of English grammar. Reflexive verbs should not be confused with transitive verbs as there is a slight but important difference in their usage.

This article about reflexive verbs vs. transitive verbs will help you learn the difference and how to use them in a sentence correctly.

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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