Personal Pronouns - Reflexive Pronouns  

What is a reflexive pronoun?

Reflexive pronouns are used when someone or something is both the subject and the object of the same verb—that is, both that which is performing the action of the verb and that which is receiving the action. When this happens, the reflexive pronoun is used as the object of the verb to show that is the same person or thing as the subject of the clause.
For example, in the sentence “I heard myself speaking,” the speaker (I) is both the subject of the verb heard and its object (what was heard), and thus he or she is represented by the reflexive pronoun myself.
However, in the sentence “I heard you speaking,” I is the subject and you is the object—they are not the same person, so a reflexive pronoun is not used.
Likewise, “I’ll be sure to thank himself” is not correct: him should be the object of thank, because I is the subject of the sentence.

The Reflexive Pronouns

The reflexive pronouns are myself, ourselves, yourself, yourselves, herself, himself, itself, themselves, and oneself. The last of these is formed from the gender-neutral indefinite pronoun one; however, the pronoun one is not a personal pronoun.
Here are some more examples:
  • “I wish you could hear yourselves right now!”
  • “She admitted to herself that she was wrong.”
  • “The vole hides itself beneath the ground for safety.”
  • “The players have really outdone themselves today!”
  • “One should strive to better oneself every day.”
On a final note, a reflexive pronoun can never be used as the subject of a verb—it can only act as the object, and only when the person or thing it represents is already being used as the subject.
Let’s look at a couple of incorrect examples to help illustrate this point:
This is very clearly wrong, because myself should be used as the object of taught, while the personal pronoun I should be used as the subject:
This is also incorrect because the speaker (as well as John) is the subject of the verb be, which does not have an object at all—it should read:
For more information on the subjective and objective cases, see the chapter section on grammatical case in personal pronouns.

1. Which of the following sentences uses reflexive pronouns correctly?

2. Which of the following sentences uses a reflexive pronoun incorrectly?

3. Which is the correct singular first-person reflexive pronoun?

4. When do you use a reflexive pronoun?

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