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Usage of Reflexive & Emphasizing Pronouns

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Uses of Reflexive & Emphasizing Pronouns

Pronouns that refer back to the subject of the sentence/clause are called Reflexive Pronouns. When reflexive pronouns are used to put emphasis on a particular noun they are called emphatic pronouns. They either end in –self or –selves. The following pronouns are called reflexive and emphasizing pronouns; e.g.

Myself, himself, herself, itself, oneself (indefinite), ourselves, themselves, yourself (singular), yourselves (plural)

1. Reflexive Pronouns

A) When the action of the subject turns back upon the subject we use a reflexive pronoun as the object of the verb, means when subject and object are the same person or thing; e.g.

i) She cut herself while peeling apples.
ii) My brother can’t shave himself.
iii) Rahul and Ritu blamed themselves for the accident.
iv) This refrigerator defrosts itself.

NOTE-I: Note the change of meaning if the reflexive pronoun is replaced by the reciprocal pronoun EACH OTHER:

a) Rahul and Ritu blamed THEMSELVES for the accident. (Means both Rahul and Ritu felt that they both were responsible for the cause of the accident.)

b) Rahul and Ritu blamed EACH OTHER for the accident. (Means Rahul blamed Ritu and Ritu blamed Rahul for the cause of the accident.)

NOTE-II: When the subject and the object are different we use the objective pronoun, not the reflexive pronoun; e.g.

a) She forced her to eat it. (Means SHE and HER are two different persons, so you cannot use HERSELF in place of HER.) उसने किसी और को खाने के लिए बाध्य किया.

b) She forced herself to eat it. (Means SHE and HERSELF refer to the same person.) उसने अपने आप को खाने के लिए बाध्य किया.


INCORRECT: I know yourself.
CORRECT: I know you.

INCORRECT: You like himself.
CORRECT: You like him.

INCORRECT: He often plays with you and myself.
CORRECT: He often plays with you and me.

INCORRECT: They helped herself.
CORRECT: They helped her.

[Use of Reflexive Pronouns is incorrect here because the subject and object of the verb in each sentence above is not the same person. Therefore we should use the Objective Pronoun instead of Reflexive Pronoun here.]

B) If the verb is followed by a preposition immediately after, and subject of the verb and object of the preposition are the same person we use Reflexive Pronoun; e.g.

i) He often speaks to himself. (वह अक्सर खुद को ही बोलता रहता है.)
ii) You should look after yourself. (तुम्हे अपनी खुद की देखभाल करनी चाहिए.)
iii) She must take care of herself. (उसे अपना खुद का ध्यान रखना चाहिए.)
iv) I am annoyed with myself. (मैं खुद अपने आप से नाराज हूँ.)
v) Did she pay for herself? (क्या उसने अपनी खुद की पेमेंट की?)
vi) She addressed the envelope to herself. (लिफ़ाफ़े पे उसने खुद ही का पता लिख दिया.)

NOTE: But if the preposition after the verb indicates locality/place or position, we use the ordinary pronoun, not the reflexive pronoun; e.g.

i) Did you take your dog with you? (not YOURSELF)
ii) They put the child between them. (not THEMSELVES)
iii) He did not have any money on him? (उसके पास कुछ भी पैसे नहीं थे.) — not HIMSELF
iv) Rohit had the money with him. (रोहित ने पैसा अपने पास रख लिया.) — not HIMSELF
v) She put her beg next to her. (HER after TO here means place.) — not HERSELF

C) Verbs that always take a Reflexive Pronoun

Adjust Absent Avail Busy Pride  

i) She absented herself from the class yesterday.
ii) We must avail ourselves of the opportunity.
iii) He prided himself on his honesty.
iv) I busied myself with tidying up my table.
v) He found it very difficult to adjust himself to life in the new school.
vi) It is difficult to adjust yourself to a new environment.

D) Verbs that may take a Reflexive Pronoun or not

Enjoy Acquit Reconcile Introduce Adapt Amuse
Apply Avenge Content Exert present

NOTE-I (a): When ENJOY has an object we do not use a Reflexive Pronoun with it, we use a Reflexive Pronoun with it only when it does not have an object; e.g.

i) We enjoyed the movie so much. (THE MOVIE is the object here.)
ii) We always enjoy ourselves when we go to Manali. (No object)
iii) I enjoyed myself in the party. (No object)

NOTE-I (b): After the verb ENJOY if an object is needed, and it’s an action word we use the GERUND, not the TO-INFINITIVE; e.g.

INCORRECT: I never enjoyed to cycle.
CORRECT: I never enjoyed cycling.

INCORRECT: They enjoyed to meet people on their trip around England.
CORRECT: They enjoyed meeting people on their trip around Italy. 

NOTE-II: When ACQUIT = ‘to decide in a law court that someone is not guilty of a crime’ we do not use a reflexive pronoun with it, but if ACQUIT =  ‘to do better than expected’ we use a reflexive pronoun with it; e.g.

i) She was acquitted of all the charges against her.
ii) Five months ago he was acquitted on a theft charge.
iii) I thought that he acquitted himself admirably in today’s meeting.

NOTE-III: When RECONCILE = ‘to accept a situation or fact although you do not like it’ we use a reflexive pronoun with it. For all other meanings of RECONCILE we do not use a reflexive pronoun with it; e.g. 

i)  She reconciled herself to poverty.
ii) She must reconcile herself to the fact that she must do some work if she wants to pass her exams.
iii) He finally reconciled himself to the change in management.
iv) The estranged couple reconciled after a year.
v) They were finally reconciled with each other, after not speakingfor nearly five years.

NOTE-IV: If the subject and the object of INTRODUCE, ADAPT, AMUSE, APPLY, AVENGE, CONTENT, EXERT, PRESENT are the same person we use a Reflexive Pronoun (not Objective), if they are different persons we use an Objective Pronoun (not Reflexive); e.g.

 i) He introduced himself to the manager. (not HIM)
ii) He introduced me to the manager. (not MYSELF)
iii) The girls amused themselves playing games. (not THEM)
iv) He amused us with a funny story. (not OURSELVES)
v) She determined to avenge herself on the killer.
vi) Most manufacturers content themselves with updating existing models.

[CONTENT = If you content yourself with doing something, you are satisfied with it  and don’t try  to do  other  things.]

vii) She exerts herself a lot at the time of examination.

[EXERT YOURSELF = to make a mental or physical effort]

viii)  He presented himself in the meeting.

[PRESENT YOURSELF = to arrive somewhere and introduce yourself]

ix)  An opportunity suddenly presented itself.

[PRESENT ITSELF = If something presents itself, it happens]

x) Anil soon adapted himself to school life.

[ADAPT ONESELF = to adjust oneself to different conditions, environment, etc.]

xi) You can solve any problem if you apply yourself.

[APPLY YOURSELF = If you apply yourself to something, you work hard at it, directing your abilities and efforts in a determined way so that you succeed]

E) Verbs that do not take a Reflexive Pronoun

Bathe Concentrate Feel Hide Hurry Keep Meet
Move Open Relax Remember Sit down Sell Stop
Turn Wake up

INCORRECT: I bathe myself every day.
CORRECT: I bathe every day.

INCORRECT: She never tries to concentrate herself.
CORRECT: She never tries to concentrate.

INCORRECT: I feel myself better today.
CORRECT: I feel better today.

INCORRECT: She hid herself behind the door.
CORRECT: She hid behind the door.

INCORRECT: Keep yourself away from bad company.
CORRECT: Keep away from bad company.

INCORRECT: These books are selling themselves well.
CORRECT: These books are selling well.

NOTE: We do not NORMALLY use Reflexive Pronouns with verbs WASH, DRESS, UNDRESS, ACCLIMATIZE, BEHAVE, HIDE, MOVE, SHAVE; e.g.

i) I Do not shave on Sundays?
ii) She quickly dressed and left for the office. (उसने फटाफट कपडे पहने और ऑफिस के लिए चली गयी.)

However, a Reflexive Pronoun can be used if it is necessary to make it clear who does the action; e.g.

i) He is old enough to dress himself now. (वह इतना बड़ा हो गया है कि अब खुद अपने आप कपड़े पहन सके.]
ii) The barber shaves all in this village who don’t shave themselves.
iii) My brother is recovering well from the illness and can now dress himself.

Note the difference

i) Do you shave on Sundays? (क्या तुम Sundays को शावे करते हो? means तुम खुद करते हो या किसी से करवाते हो)
ii) Do you shave yourself on Sundays? (Sundays को क्या तुम खुद शेव करते हो?)

Some Important Notes

a) Unless a noun/pronoun comes just after we do not use a Reflexive Pronoun as a subject or object of a sentence, rather we use a subjective pronoun; e.g.

i) I am Mohan. (not MYSELF IS MOHAN)
ii) Rahul and I are friends. (not RAHUL AND MYSELF ARE FRIENDS)
iii) He will help you. (not HIMSELF WILL HELP YOU)
iv) Jarina is going to help you complete this letter. (not YOURSELF)

b) Possessive form of reflexive pronoun is not made by the APOSTROPHE (‘s); if a need is there we use ‘POSSESSIVE ADJECTIVE + OWN’; e.g.

INCORRECT: I gave her myself’s watch.
CORRECT: I gave her my own watch.

INCORRECT: She sold herself’s car.
CORRECT: She sold her own car.

c) The word SELF is sometimes used as a noun; e.g.

a) He cares for nothing but self.
b) He thinks much of self.


The reflexive pronouns myself, himself etc. can also be used to emphasize a noun or pronoun; e.g.

The Prime Minister himself gave her the medal.

NOTE: When we use an Emphasizing Pronoun in this way, use of the Emphasizing Pronoun is not necessary; e.g.

The Prime Minister himself gave her the medal.
= The Prime Minister gave her the medal.


A) If the verb is transitive, the emphasizing pronoun can be placed just after the subject or after the object. In both cases the pronoun emphasizes the subject; e.g.

a) Ritu herself wrote the letter.
= Ritu wrote the letter herself.

b) She herself addressed the envelope. (लिफाफे पे पता उसने खुद अपने आप लिखा.)
= She addressed the envelope herself.

B) If the verb is intransitive the emphasizing pronoun can be placed just after the subject or after the verb; e.g.

Rahul himself went.
= Rahul went himself.

NOTE: If the intransitive verb is followed by a preposition, similar is the case; e.g.

Rahul himself went to London.
= Rahul went to London himself.

C) When the emphasizing pronoun is not emphasizing the subject, rather it’s emphasizing another noun it’s placed immediately after that noun; e.g.

a) I saw Rajan himself in the market.
b) I spoke to the President himself.
c) She didn’t like the ring itself but its design.

Note the difference:

1-i) I did it myself. (means it was done by me and not by someone else.) – इसका मतलब ये भी हो सकता की शायद किसी और की हेल्प भी ली हो.
ii) I did it by myself. (means I did it without help)

2. He sat by himself. (means he sat without taking help of anybody)

3-i) She herself addressed the envelope.
= She addressed the envelope herself. (लिफाफे पे पता उसने खुद अपने आप लिखा.)
ii) She addressed the envelope to herself. (लिफाफे पे उसने खुद का ही पता लिख दिया.

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Maha Gupta

Maha Gupta

Founder of www.examscomp.com and guiding aspirants on SSC exam affairs since 2010 when objective pattern of exams was introduced first in SSC. Also the author of the following books:

1. Maha English Grammar (for Competitive Exams)
2. Maha English Practice Sets (for Competitive Exams)

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