Using reflexive pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are often a source of confusion among my students. Here's how reflexive pronouns work. If the subject and object of the sentence are the same, you need a reflexive pronoun. For example:

My name is Jill. I like Jill.

In this sentence. The speaker's name is Jill and the speaker (Jill) is also the object. Using a reflexive pronoun, the sentence would be:

My name is Jill. I like myself.

Other reflexive pronouns are yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves.

Your name is Jessica. You like Jessica.

Your name is Jessica. You like yourself.

His name is Dan. He likes Dan.

His name is Dan. Dan likes himself.

Our names are John, Mary, and Peter. We like John, Mary, and Peter.

Our names are John, Mary, and Peter. We like ourselves.

Their names are Bill and June. They like Bill and June.

Their names are Bill and June. They like themselves.

Like possessive pronouns (my, his, hers, yours, ours, theirs), reflexive pronouns can never be used as the subject.

Myself likes myself.

Yourself likes yourself.

Himself likes himself.

Other sentences using reflexive pronouns.

I'm planning a second honeymoon for Jim and myself.

I'd like to try baking the cake myself.

My three year old daughter dressed herself this morning.

We painted the house ourselves.

Don left Microsoft years ago. He works for himself now.

Be careful or you will hurt yourself.

The kids did a great job on their science project. They should be proud of themselves.

Many of my students ask me about the difference between using by myself and myself. If no one else was involved, meaning you were alone, then it is appropriate to use by myself. If someone else could have completed the action for you, then use myself. Here are some examples:

I cooked dinner by myself.

(No one else was in the kitchen. They were all watching TV.)

I cooked dinner myself.

(My husband can't cook and I didn't want to call my mother-in-law to cook for me.)

We painted the house by ourselves.

(Only our family was involved. No one else would help us.)

We painted the house ourselves.

(We decided not to hire someone to do it for us.)

I'm planning our wedding myself.

(I decided not to hire wedding planner.)

I'm planning my wedding by myself.

(No one is helping me plan this wedding, not even my fiancé.)

My colleague designed the PowerPoint presentation by himself.

(No other colleagues helped him.)

My colleague designed the PowerPoint presentation himself.

(He didn't hire a marketing company to do it for him.)

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