Reflexive Pronouns and Their Usage

Reflexive pronoun definition

A precise definition of what can be correctly categorized as reflexive pronouns in correct English grammar is that reflexive pronouns refer back to the subject of the sentence or clause. Mostly reflexive Pronoun ends with -self or -selves and refers to a noun or pronoun that was previously named or termed. For example,

  • He got himself a good job.

 Another example is:

  • We made ourselves good tea.
  • He saw himself in the mirror.

The Indo-European languages do not refer to reflexive pronoun as boot verbs unless the words are separated by a comma or the two verbs are next to one another. Other languages have the distinction between the normal object and the reflexive pronoun as the third person.

For example, when you say, “I hate me” and “I hate myself” there is no question that both refer to the subject and object as opposed to saying,”They adore them(selves)” there could be uncertainty about the object unless there is a difference between the non-reflexive pronoun and the reflexive pronoun.  In other languages, this kind of distinction.

When to use different reflexive pronouns

Ordinarily, reflexive pronouns end in –self or –selves. They are used when the subject and the object of a sentence are the same. There are nine reflexive pronouns in the English language. Examples of reflexive pronouns are me, yourself, himself, herself, itself, oneself, ourselves, yourselves and themselves. They reflect back upon the subject of the sentence or the clause.

Direct and indirect reflexive pronouns

Take the following sentences for example:

  1. I treated myself to dinner.
  2. I made dinner myself.
  3. I made dinner for myself.
  • In a), ‘dinner’ is an indirect object and ‘myself’ is a direct object. ‘I’ is the antecedent for the reflexive pronoun ‘myself’, so the meaningis that the dinner was intended for the same person who made it that is me.
  • In b), ‘dinner’ is a direct object but ‘myself’ is not an object. It is an optional modifier in clause structure, used for emphasis. It is evidently not clear who I made the dinner for. It is clear however is that it is I that made dinner.
  • In c), ‘dinner’ is a direct object and ‘myself’ is the indirect object.

There is no rule that reflexive pronouns ought to be either direct or indirect. One may find that in many instances, reflexive pronouns have a strong tendency to be objects. One will also find that they also are used as direct, indirect and also prepositional. The case varies with each instance. The use of reflexive pronouns is necessitated by the fact that using one’s name twice as both the object and subject might seem out of sorts and even rude.

For example, one would rather say ‘Catey made herself dinner.’ then say ‘Catey made Catey dinner.’ Myself is used as a reflexive pronoun in the first person. Myself reflects back on ‘I’. It is used when one is referring to oneself. For example, I bought myself a Ferrari. This is the correct use of ‘myself’. An incorrect use would be ‘I myself bought a Ferrari. In this case, myself is not used as a direct or indirect object but to bring emphasis. As is the case with all the other reflexive pronouns, or simply reflexives, there is no definite rule as to whether it has to be used as a direct or indirect object.

Myself is only applicable in the singular.

Another incorrect way of using myself would be to make it the subject of the sentence

  • An example is me is a hero.

The correct way to use myself in that sentence would be to say ‘I know myself.’

Ourselves is used in the first-person plural. ‘We’ is the antecedent for ourselves. One may use ourselves to reflect back on ‘we’.An example of the use of ourselves is,

  • ‘We got ourselvesa good deal.

In this sentence, ourselves is a reflexive pronoun and an indirect object. A good deal is a direct object. I am evident that the ones who enjoyed a good deal are the ones who sought out the deal. Saying we ourselves got a good deal uses ourselves as an emphasis.

Yourself and yourselves are used in second person single and plural.  Yourself is used as an object is used when ‘you’ used as the subject. An example is:

  • ‘You will buy a plate for yourself.’

In the above sentence, you are the subject, ‘a plate’ is the direct subject while yourself is the indirect pronoun. Another use of yourself as a direct object occurs as follows.

  • You brought yourselves into this.

In the above sentence ‘you’ are subject. Yourselves are the direct object. ‘This’ is the indirect object.

An incorrect use of yourself as a reflexive pronoun would be, you yourself did this.

Himself  versus herself are gender specific third person singular reflexive pronouns. Himself is used as a reflexive pronoun when ‘he’ is used as the subject. It can also be used if the subject is male when their name is used instead of a pronoun. Herself is used as a reflexive pronoun when the subject of the sentence or the clause is a female or when the subject has been denoted by the pronoun ‘she’.

For example,

  • ‘He cut himself.’

In the above sentence, He is the subject, the cut is the verb, and himself is a reflexive pronoun and the object of the sentence. It is evident that the subject performed the verb action on themselves.

Another example is

  • ‘She praises herself.’

In the above example, ‘She’ is the subject of the sentence, praises are a verb and herself is the reflexive pronoun and also a direct subject.

Herself can be used as an indirect subject in the following example.

  • She bought a car for herself.

In the above example, ‘car’ is the direct subject and herself is the indirect subject.

Herself and himself, when used in the following way, may not be referred to as a reflexive pronoun.

  • He himself knows what he did.

Itself is for inanimate creatures and objects. It is used when ‘it’ has been the subject of the sentence.

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For example, ‘It tripped itself and fell.’ In the above sentence, It is the subject of the sentence, itself is the direct object and fell is the verb. To say ‘It itself fell’ would not be a reflexive pronoun. In this instance, it is used to give emphasis.

‘Oneself’ is used mostly to represent the object in question. For example, one always becomes more careful not to hurt oneself. It is used to represent people. It shows the ‘one’ to refer back to the object when it is the subject of the sentence. It is used to put emphasis on a person in reference to a particular matter being discussed. For instance, it is always good not to put oneself in danger. Here, one is used to put an emphasis on not allowing the person being discussed in the clause to get hurt. The said person has to dedicate themselves to the subject of not getting hurt.

In addition to all the above, it’s mostly used in the contexts in which deities are discussed. Hence it is mostly encountered in religious or cultish texts. In an example, one must do all one can do to help oneself.

In the above sentence, one is the subject, oneself is the object and help is the verb.

Themselves versus themselves

These are used in the singular and plural contexts respectively. Themselves and themselves are used in the third person to refer to an object in a sentence that is being discussed by a different party. In the following example, ‘they did that to themselves’, ‘they’ is the subject, did is the verb and themselves is the direct object. Themselves and themselves are used when discussing groups. They are applicable when ‘them’ is the subject of the sentence. In the above sentence, it is clearly shown that the subject is the object of the verb.

To say they themselves did it brings ambiguity. Whereas it is clear who did the action, the people who were affected by the action are unclear. The use of themselves in this sentence is unclear.

One cannot say that the use of themselves is as a reflexive pronoun.

Themselves is a standard form of the reflexive pronoun that is the same as they and them. For example, they just arrived and I told them to help themselves. In some languages, they and they are used to describe an unspecified gender.

For instance, she and he can both be represented at them. If your friend is looking for an attachment, they can good places from our offices. This day, people used themselves to replace the singular of them and them. It is the logical and most accepted singular form of they and them. That is the only way for someone to help themselves. This is not widely used and accepted, though you could avoid using it with formal statements.

Accusative pronouns

A noun has an accusative case with a grammatical case to mark and position direct objects of transitive verbs. the same thing is used in other languages for objects. It may be used in some or all the prepositions. An accusative pronoun is a noun that has something done to it. It may be expounded or reduced. It could be used hand in hand with the Latin nominative case.

They are a nominative in English, while them is accusative. In a sentence like ‘they hate them’, the sentence gives us an example of how the nominative case works in conjunction with the accusative case to form the bain word. Mostly the accusative pronoun is used to designate the next object in the line of action, the outcome, the goal and results expected and how much the action can go.

Modern English mostly does not have the changes in the word form to express I the way the word was formed. It lacks the expression in its noun. There are no explicitly marked accusative pronouns in modern English since it entirely lacked declension in its nouns.

In words such as whom, them and her which are forms derived from old Germanic dative forms where –m and –rare endings are characteristic.

Mostly in modern English, these do not occur. The terms subject for nominative and objective for oblique. In the old English of the 19th century, one might find a more common occurrence of the accusative pronouns.

In Indo European languages, accusative pronouns can be used as both direct and indirect object in sentences or clauses.

Pronouns List

Pronouns are words that are used to represent nouns. They refer to a noun while also describing other characteristics of the noun such as possession, gender, and quantity. Pronouns indicate whether the object or the subject in question is being discussed in the first person, second person or third person.

Pronouns in the first person are I, me, we, us, ours, our, our self, ourselves, and myself. Pronouns in the second person are you, yours and yourself.

Pronouns in the third person are they, them, themselves and themselves.

Pronouns that show possession are they’re, theirs, our, ours, my and yours.

Examples in sentences:

  • I am who I am.
  • Their home is next to the pigsty.
  • Their food is amazing.
  • You got yourself here.

There are various types of pronouns

In the English language, there are nine reflexive pronouns. These reflexive pronouns are me, ourselves, yourself, themselves, themselves, itself, oneself, yourselves and ourselves. Just like the other pronouns, they show singularity and plurality. Reflexive pronouns help reduce repetition. Instead of saying John bought John a car, which may sound offensive and incorrect, one will say John bought himself a car.

Reflexive pronouns make for a polite way of communicating.