Reflexive (“Self”) Pronouns
English has yet another group of pronouns: reflexive pronouns. These pronouns are sometimes called “self” pronouns because all of them end in -self or its plural form, -selves:
In general, reflexive pronouns are used when the subject and the object (or the indirect object or object of a preposition) in a sentence are the same:
When there’s no one else to answer him,
Bill talks to himself (= Bill talks to Bill).
No, I won’t forget. I’ll write a note to
myself (= I’ll write a note to me).
Sheila taught herself to ride a bicycle
(= Sheila taught Sheila to ride a bicycle).
Joe and Fred think only of themselves
(= Joe and Fred think only of Joe and Fred).
Reflexive pronouns are also used in the set phrases by ___ self and by ___ selves).
These phrases have two meanings. One is without any help:
I don’t need any help. I can do it by myself.
His homework is perfect. Did he do it by himself?
Did the children clean their rooms by themselves?
The other common meaning for by ___ self and by ___ selves is alone:
Bobby is only six years old, but he flew to London by himself.
Do you have roommates or do you live by yourself?
Do you want some company or would you prefer to be by yourself?
Reflexive pronouns can also be used to add emphasis. In this situation, the meaning is something like “personally” (emphatic pronouns)
I myself don’t believe him. (Personally, I don’t believe him.)
Yes, Jane is leaving. She herself told me. (Jane personally told me that she is leaving.)
You yourself must be present. No one can represent you. (You must be present personally. No other person can represent you.)
For this use of reflexive pronouns, the pronoun can also be at the end of the sentence:
I don’t believe him myself. (I don’t believe him personally.)
Yes, Jane is leaving. She told me herself. (She told me personally.)
You must be present yourself. No one can represent you. (You must be present personally.)