What is a Reflexive Pronoun?

writer Mousumi

A pronoun is used as a substitute for a noun or a noun phrase. They are usually short words that make the sentence simpler by replacing the noun. Without pronouns we would have to keep repeating the nouns. This would make the sentence repetitive and inconvenient to use. Some common pronouns are I, me, you, we, us, he, she, they, them, this, that, her, his, our, their etc.

For example, Mary had a little lamb when she lived on a farm.
In this sentence, the pronoun she is used instead of using Mary twice. Pronouns are grouped into different categories according to their nature and use.

Types of Pronouns
The different types of pronouns are personal pronouns, reflexive pronouns, emphatic pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, indefinite pronouns, distributive pronouns, relative pronouns and interrogative pronouns.

Reflexive Pronouns

When a person who is realizing the action of the verb is also the recipient of the action, a reflexive pronoun is used. We get reflexive pronouns by adding -self to my, your, him, her, it and by adding -selves to our, your, them. Therefore, the different reflexive pronouns are myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselvesand themselves.

You can use them in a sentence like-

  • I hurt myself.
  • You hurt yourself.
  • He hurt himself.
  • She hurt herself.
  • It hurt itself.
  • We hurt ourselves.
  • You hurt yourselves.
  • They hurt themselves.

Now that you know what reflexive pronouns are, let us learn how to identify them in a sentence.

1. Reflexive pronouns are preceded by the adverb, adjective, pronoun or noun to which they refer.
2. Reflexive pronouns always refer back to the subject or clause of a sentence.
3. When the action is done, the subject turns back and reflects upon the subject. This is how reflexive pronoun gets its name.
4. Reflexive pronouns are used as the object of the verb. It refers to the same person or thing as that denoted by the subject of the verb.

To understand this better let’s look at a few sentences.

I saw myself in the mirror.

In this sentence, myself is a reflexive pronoun. The subject of the verb I does the action of seeing and then reflects upon the subject. The reflexive pronoun myself acts as the object of the verb and refers to I who is the subject of the verb.

You have to be able to differentiate between reflexive and emphatic pronouns. Emphatic pronouns are used only for the sake of emphasis and they don’t act like the object of the verb. In the sentence she herself set a hard task, herself is an emphatic pronoun because it merely adds emphasis on the pronoun she.

But in the sentence she set herself a hard task, herself is a reflexive pronoun because it acts as the object of the verb set. It refers to the same person that was denoted by the subject she.

Few more examples of reflexive pronouns are-

  • We often deceive ourselves.
  • The prisoner hanged himself.
  • Some people are always talking about themselves.
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