What Are Reflexive Pronouns?

What are reflexive pronouns and when do you need to use them?

The short answer is that The reflexive pronoun is a pronoun that ends in . -Self or ourselves.

There are many specific rules when it comes to using reflexive pronouns, and it can be confusing to know how to use them correctly.

If you are looking for a guide, you are in the right place. This article explains what reflexive pronouns are, how to use them, and how to avoid common mistakes.

What is a reflexive pronoun?

In English, the file singular reflexive pronouns be MyselfAnd yourselfAnd itselfAnd Himself, And Itself.

the Reflexive plural pronouns be ourselvesAnd yourselves, And themselves.

Picture showing examples of reflexive pronouns

You can use reflexive pronouns when the subject of the sentence is also the subject of the sentence. This way, you can explain what’s going on without having to repeat the same topic twice.

For example, you might write the sentence Miranda smiled at Miranda in the woman, where Miranda is the subject and the subject. This sentence is grammatically correct, but it sounds sloppy and repetitive, and it also leaves room for error because there might be two Mirandas in the room.

To improve the sentence, you can replace the second “Miranda” with a reflexive pronoun: Miranda smiled at itself in the woman. The reflexive pronoun here tells us that Miranda directs the smile to Miranda, in a more fluid and clear way.

When should reflexive pronouns be used?

An image showing the definition of reflexive pronouns

There are many specific circumstances in which we use reflexive pronouns. Let’s take a look at all of them.

Use reflexive pronouns when the subject and object are the same

The most common way to use the reflexive pronoun is when the subject of the sentence is also the subject of the sentence.


  • kick jon Himself When he realizes he’s wrong Means “john kicked john”
  • joanna pinched itself To see if she is dreaming Means “Joanna Pinched Joanna”
  • You shouldn’t blame yourself what happened Means “I shouldn’t blame you”

Use reflexive pronouns as intensified pronouns

You can use the reflexive pronoun right after the subject to make it an intensified pronoun.

The purpose of intensive pronouns is Emphasize the topic of the sentence and draw more attention to who they are.

An image showing the definition of intensive pronouns


  • Queen of England itself My daughter graduated Emphasizes the importance of the Queen of England
  • President Obama Himself shake me Emphasizes the importance of President Obama
  • I Myself I have always preferred chocolate over sweets Confirm the person speaking

Use reflexive pronouns to mean “alone” after the preposition “by”

You can use the reflexive pronoun after the preposition ‘by’ to show that someone is doing something on their own, or without any help from others.


  • My daughter has finally learned how to dress by herself It means, “My daughter has finally learned how to dress without anyone else’s help.”
  • He cleaned the bathroom By himself It means, “He cleaned the bathroom without anyone’s help.”
  • I ate in the whole restaurant by myself It means “I ate in the restaurant by myself.”

Use reflexive pronouns to mean specific things with specific reflexive verbs

Some verbs change their meaning when a reflexive pronoun is added. There are no general rules for these, so you simply have to memorize what they mean.

  • helps yourself It means “take as much as you want”
  • behavior yourself means “well-behaved”
  • Progressing yourself It means “work hard”
  • Content yourself It means “be satisfied”

Before we look at common reflexive pronoun mistakes, let’s review what we’ve learned so far:

When are there some common mistakes when using reflexive pronouns?

Many writers mistakenly use reflexive pronouns in cases where they should use a regular pronoun instead.

Let’s talk about some of these common mistakes.

Do not use reflexive pronouns in a compound subject or a compound object

Many people, especially in the workplace, make the mistake of using reflexive pronouns when there are multiple subjects or objects in a sentence.

In these cases, you should actually use the same pronouns you would use if you only had one subject or object.

Here are some examples of this error:

  • Mr. Bera and Myself We are proud to present our new project (Correct version: Mr. Bera and I We are proud to present our new project)
  • You can ask questions to Katy or Myself (Correct version: You can ask questions to Katy or I)

A picture showing the reflexive pronouns dos and don'ts

Do not use reflexive pronouns after prepositions for the place

Don’t use reflexive pronouns after place-related prepositions, such as In a confrontationAnd BehindAnd nearAnd aboveAnd less, or Next to.

The picture shows the rules of reflexive pronouns

Here are some examples of this error:

  • The dog barked at the squirrel next to it Itself (Correct version: The dog barked at the squirrel next to it He. She)
  • I looked out the plane window at the clouds below Myself (Correct version: I looked out the plane window at the clouds below I)

Do not use reflexive pronouns after the preposition ‘with’.

Here are some examples of this error:

  • She had her family with herself (Correct version: She had her family with her)
  • Bring the guitar with himself for the test (Correct version: Bring the guitar with him for the test)

Don’t use reflexive pronouns if the reflexive verb is something people usually do to themselves

You don’t need a reflexive pronoun with reflexive verbs that describe something a person would normally do to themselves, because in this case, the reflexive pronoun is involved.

Here are some examples of this error:

  • he shaved himself Every morning (Correct version: he shaved Every morning)
  • I I dressed myself for the party (Correct version: I Wears for the party)

We only add the reflexive pronoun after these verbs to emphasize the fact that it is being done.

  • he shaved himself Every morning, even when he was too weak to catch a mousse.
  • I I dressed myself For the party though my stylist wanted to do it for me.

The picture shows the rules for using reflexive pronouns

The use of pronouns and reflexive pronouns helps the reader to keep track of who is doing what. But using them frequently makes your writing boring or repetitive, especially at the beginning of sentences.

The ProWritingAid Pronouns Report highlights all the pronouns in your document so you can be sure that they are all necessary. Aim to have pronouns make up less than 15% of all words in your document.

Screenshot of ProWritingAid's Pronoun Check

Try the Pronoun report with a free ProWritingAid account.

What are some examples of reflexive pronouns used in a sentence?

Let’s look at some examples of reflexive pronouns from books:

  • “He was one of those people whose thoughts were too energetic to be confined to their brains and spread out into the world to panic passersby. Talk to Himself His face is constantly changing. “-Jonathan String and Mr. Norell by Susanna Clark

  • “She was a little woman, quite boyish, not quite short but somewhat unreal, as if she were a microcosm. itself. “-The sentence is death by Anthony Horowitz

  • “When someone is upset and has been tucked away itself Between the radiator and the wall, behind the bathtub, or in another small safe space, Valerie can turn around itself in a zipped package and sit near that person.” —girl cut off by Susanna Kaysen

  • “After midnight, the clock again begins to fold Itself. “-night circus by Erin Morgenstern

  • “We have the knowledge to realize that we are just a mass of quantities and particles, like anything else, and yet we are trying to separate ourselves From the universe we live in, to give ourselves Meaning higher than a tree, a rock, a cat or a turtle. “-How does time stop? by Matt Haig

  • “Hold the audience themselves Quiet, tense, and tight, as if the song had burned them worse than a flame. “-the name of the wind by Patrick Rothfuss

  • “She’d go all day with the laces untied because she couldn’t tie them. itselfYet no one will bear to associate it with her.”—The apprentice is a killer by Robin Hope

  • “Obviously, from the stillness which they emit in the photographs, how much you distrusted the camera; itself against attack.”goldfinch by Donna Tart

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