Reflexive and reciprocal pronouns

Reflexive pronouns

English doesn’t really have reflexive verbs the way that many other languages do. However, when the same person is the subject and object of the verb we usually use a reflexive pronoun.

  • I cut myself shaving this morning.

The subject – I – is also the object of the sentence – so we use the reflexive pronoun, myself.

  • Why don’t you buy yourself a new car? This one’s really unreliable.
  • He looked at himself in the mirror.
  • She taught herself Italian using a book.
  • The washing machine switches itself off when it’s finished.
  • We kept ourselves warm around the fire.
  • Tell me all about yourselves.
  • Hedgehogs protect themselves from predators by rolling into a ball.

Enjoy’ is often used with a reflexive pronoun.

  • Did you enjoy yourself at the party?
  • From their postcard it sounds as if they’re really enjoying themselves.

By yourself’ means ‘alone

  • He lives by himself in a cottage by the sea.
  • I’m rather anti-social. I love being by myself.

Reflexive pronouns can also be used with nouns to mean ‘Me (or you/him/her etc) and nobody else

  • Did you do this homework yourself or did you get help?
  • Did you talk to the manageress herself or just to one of her assistants?

There is an important difference between reflexive pronouns and reciprocal pronouns

  • They looked at themselves in the mirror. This is reflexive.
  • They looked at each other lovingly. This is reciprocal. He looked at her and she looked at him.

Quiz

Complete 1-5 using reflexive or reciprocal pronouns.

  1. The tennis players shook hands with ___________ at the end of the match.
  2. We enjoyed _______ at the party.
  3. I made this cake ______.
  4. She cut ______ when she was preparing vegetables.
  5. I didn’t update Skype. It updated ______.