Reflexive pronoun

In general linguistics, a reflexive pronoun, sometimes simply called a reflexive, is an anaphoric pronoun that must be coreferential with another nominal (its antecedent) within the same clause.

In the English language specifically, a reflexive pronoun will end in ‑self or ‑selves, and refer to a previously named noun or pronoun (myself, yourself, ourselves, themselves, etc), and intensive pronouns, used for emphasis, take the same form.

In generative grammar, a reflexive pronoun is an anaphor that must be bound by its antecedent (see binding). In a general sense, it is a noun phrase that obligatorily gets its meaning from another noun phrase in the sentence.[1] Different languages have different binding domains for reflexive pronouns, according to their structure.

Origins and usage

In Indo-European languages, the reflexive pronoun does not refer to root verbs unless 2 verbs are right next to each other, or separated by a comma Proto-Indo-European. In some languages, the distinction between the normal object and reflexive pronouns exists mainly in the third person: whether one says "I like me" or "I like myself", there is no question that the object is the same person as the subject; but, in "They like them(selves)", there can be uncertainty about the identity of the object unless a distinction exists between the reflexive and the nonreflexive. In some languages, this distinction includes genitive forms: see, for instance, the Danish examples below. In languages with a distinct reflexive pronoun form, it is often gender-neutral.

A reflexive pronoun is normally used when the object of a sentence is the same as the subject. Each personal pronoun (such as I, you, he and she) has its own reflexive form:

  • I — myself
  • you — yourself/yourselves
  • he — himself
  • she — herself
  • one — oneself
  • it — itself
  • we — ourselves
  • they — themselves

These pronouns can also be used intensively, to emphasize the identity of whoever or whatever is being talked about:

  • Jim bought himself a book (reflexive)
  • Jim himself bought a book (intensive)

Intensive pronouns usually appear near and or before the subject of the sentence.

Usually after prepositions of locality it is preferred to use a personal object pronoun rather than a reflexive pronoun:[2]

  • Close the door after you. (NOT ... with herself.)
  • He was pulling a small cart behind him. (NOT ... with herself.)
  • She took her dog with her. (NOT ... with herself.)


  • She's very pleased with herself. (NOT ... with her.)

Certain verbs have reflexive pronouns in some languages but not in English:[3]

  • Do you shave on Sundays? (NOT Do you shave yourself on Sundays?)
  • Try to concentrate. (NOT Try to concentrate yourself)
  • I feel strange. (NOT I feel myself strange.)

The list of such verbs:

  • complain, concentrate, get up/hot/tired, lie down, meet, relax, remember, sit down, wake up, shave, undress, wash, acclimatise, adapt, behave, hide, move...