Reflexive and Intensive Pronouns in English: What are They & How to Use Them

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How Reflexive Pronouns are Used in a Sentence

Reflexive pronouns are used as follows:

A direct object of the sentence: (A direct object receives the action of the verb.)

We saw ourselves as winners.

He viewed himself as perfect.

An indirect object of the sentence: (An indirect object tells to whom or for whom the verb’s action is applied.)

He gave himself too much credit.

They paid themselves a huge bonus.

An object of a preposition:

I sometimes talk to myself.

The were very ashamed of themselves.

Note in the above examples the reflexive pronoun has a distinct grammatical function. Note also that the subject of each sentence is always the same person or persons of the reflexive pronoun.

How Intensive Pronouns are Used in a Sentence

“First cousins” of reflexive pronouns, intensive pronouns come in the same form (-self, -selves), but they immediately follow the noun or pronoun. Their purpose is to intensify or stress that noun or pronoun.

Some examples:

We ourselves were uncertain.

I myself was very ashamed.

Avoiding Incorrect and “Illiterate” Use of Reflexive Pronouns

♦ Incorrect Use

In informal speech, we often hear the reflexive and intensive pronoun misused. Here are some common errors:

Incorrect: The manager invited myself and my coworkers to lunch.

Correct: The manager invited my coworkers and me to lunch.

Remember that the reflexive pronoun must be the same as the subject of the sentence. The subject of the sentence is “manager.”

♦ “Illiterate” Use

The use of incorrect forms of intensive pronouns also occurs in slang or colloquial speech. However, the so-called “illiterate use” of reflexive and intensive pronouns should be always be avoided in formal writing.

Illiterate forms of the reflexive:

Incorrect: ourself; correct: ourselves

Incorrect: hisself; correct: himself

Incorrect: theirself, themself, theirselves; correct: themselves

Incorrect: ourself; correct: ourselves

Note: The only correct forms of reflexive and intensive pronouns are:

himself, herself, itself, myself, ourselves, themselves, yourself and yourselves

Read more about reflexive and intensive pronouns at:

University of Victoria Study Zone: Reflexive Pronouns

English the Easy Way: Intensive Pronouns

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