Do you think that Reflexive Pronouns are confusing? If so, read on. The good news is that they are limited in number and limited in use. We only use Reflexive Pronouns to reflect back on someone or something, just like a mirror.
The monkey can see its reflection.
Look at the monkey in the picture.
1. The monkey is looking at itself.
2. It is looking at itself.
Itself is looking at itself.
The monkey is looking at the monkey.
∗ Reflexive Pronouns cannot be subjects in a sentence because …
First, a different word is the subject, and second, the Reflexive Pronoun refers (or reflects back) to the subject. So, sentence #3 is incorrect.
Sentence #4 seems to refer to two monkeys, so the meaning is incorrect.
Singular: ♦ myself ♦ yourself ♦ himself ♦ herself ♦ itself ♦ oneself
Plural: ♦♦ ourselves ♦♦ yourselves ♦♦ themselves
Mi Pham is really enjoying himself. In fact, all the children are enjoying themselves.
A: “Would you like to try some of this delicious bread? I made it myself.”
B: “Really? You made it yourself? Of course I’d love to try some!” ∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼
“Try some of our new Rosé. We sell most of the wine we produce but of course we keep quite a bit for ourselves!
Do you like the wine label? Louise designed it herself.
Help yourselves to whatever you feel like! As you can see, there is plenty of luscious food and wine, most of it produced by us here on the farm.”
∗ Can you see the subject in the sentence?
Help yourselves to whatever you feel like!
No? You can’t see the subject?! Don’t all sentences have to include a subject?!
Yes, that’s right. English Sentences must include a subject and a verb. The only time that you don’t see the subject is in Imperative sentences where it is implied. The subject is always You and the sentence starts with the verb:
(You) Help yourselves to whatever you feel like!
(You) Enjoy yourself at the party.
(You) Take care of yourself.
The Reflexive Pronoun myself is often used incorrectly as a subject.
The top chef and myself made a Christmas cake. X
The top chef and I made a Christmas cake. √
We made a Christmas cake. √
∗ Remember that Reflexive Pronouns cannot be subjects in a sentence. Also, the top chef and myself are two different people, so myself does not refer to anyone. Reflexive pronouns are like a mirror reflection. They reflect back on someone or something. * Reflexive Pronouns cannot be used alone!
The Reflexive Pronouns myself and yourself are also often used incorrectly as an object.
The chef made the cake for myself. X
The chef made the cake for me. √
I‘ve done all this work for yourself. X
I‘ve done all this work for you. √
If you would like more information,
you can contact myself anytime. X
If you would like more information, you can contact me anytime. √
If I need more information,
how can I contact yourself? X
If I need more information, how can I contact you? √
It would be worthwhile for both yourself and your husband to inspect the apartment. X
It would be worthwhile for both you and your husband to inspect the apartment. √
Other Reflexive Pronouns are sometimes used incorrectly; however, myself causes the most problems! This is because native speakers get confused with ‘I’ and ‘me’. For more information, click here.
However, Reflexive Pronouns can be used correctly as an object. Look at the difference between correct and incorrect usage:
1. I should look after myself better. √
She is not cooking mussels for herself.
I should look after me better. X
3. Did you hurt yourself? √
Did you hurt you? X
5. Madonna loves herself. √
Madonna loves her. X
7. We can look after our children ourselves. √
We can look after our children us. X
9. The mother is cooking mussels for the family, but not for herself. She doesn’t like mussels. √
The mother is cooking mussels for the family, but not for she. X
11. Does one ever truly know oneself? (formal / non-specific) √
Does one ever truly know one? X
For more information, examples and practice exercises, click here, here, here, and here.