Have you noticed how often English uses words ending in -self or -selves

Homer Simpson looks through a magnifying glass and says


  • Believe in yourself.

  • We have to love ourselves first.

  • They only think of themselves.

These words ending in -self or -selves are reflexive pronouns. These pronouns help you say more about the subject of a sentence. They also help you express yourself (another reflexive pronoun example!) clearly when you need to use other pronouns in a sentence.

What are reflexive pronouns?

Reflexive pronouns act like a mirror: they reflect the subject

A woman looking at herself in the mirror in a meadow. Photo by Caroline Veronez on Unsplash

In English, the subject is usually near the beginning of the sentence. A reflexive pronoun tells us more about that subject somewhere else in the sentence. Specifically, we need it when we talk about the subject again as an object.


You make reflexive pronouns by sticking -self or -selves to a personal pronoun.

  • my + self

  • him + self

  • them + selves

  • your + self (talking to one person)

  • your + selves (talking to MORE THAN ONE person)


The woman looks at herself in the mirror. ✅

The subject (woman) tells us who is doing the action of looking. What is she looking at? Her own image! The reflexive pronoun (herself) reflects back to the subject to show she's looking at her own image.

I built a house for myself! ✅

The subject (I) tells us who built the house. The reflexive pronoun (myself) reflects back to the subject, telling us another detail: the house is for the subject.

Quiz 1

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Which of these sentences has a reflexive pronoun? There may be more than one correct answer.

A. I love myself!

B. They're taking care of him.

C. I will remember you. 

D. They bought it for themselves.


Select any correct answer:

Which reflexive pronoun do you use?

What is WRONG with these sentences?

  • Believe in you. ❌

  • We have to take care of us first. ❌

  • They only thought of their selves. ❌

Answer: All of them have other pronouns or other words where a reflexive pronoun should be. They all need a reflexive pronoun to talk about the subject again. Now, the subject is turning into an object.

Here are all of the reflexive pronouns with their matching subjects. The examples show subjects and reflexive pronouns together.

Chart showing which reflexive pronouns match which subjects and examples Image created by author using Canva.

*Themselfis less common. Experts disagree on how to form reflexive pronouns for singular they, so it's safe to use the older form, themselves.

How do you use reflexive pronouns in conversation?

Imagine this conversation between a parent and their teenage child. Look for the reflexive pronouns in bold.

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Teenager: Can I take the car and drive myself to the concert?

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Parent: I’m not sure. Why do you want to drive yourself?

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T: I have my driver’s license. That says I can keep myself safe!

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P: I know, I just worry about you. Are your friends also driving themselves?

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T: Dan is driving himself! Jane’s parents are taking her there. 

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P: OK, you can drive yourself. But text me when you get there and when you leave.

Flaticon Icon How many times did the speakers use reflexive pronouns? Which other words were pronouns, but NOT reflexive?

Common mistakes ⚠️

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Using reflexive pronouns instead of personal pronouns.

Yourself can finish this alone. ❌

You can finish this alone. ✅

Jan and myself can help. ❌

Jan and I can help you. ✅

They can give it to ourselves. ❌

They can give it to us. ✅

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Not using reflexive pronouns when you need to reflect the subject.

I can take care of me. ❌

I can take care of myself. ✅

You only have cake for you, not me? ❌

You only have cake for yourself, not me? ✅

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Using incorrect forms of the reflexive pronouns.

He got a book for hisself. ❌

He got a book for himself. ✅

Those ovens clean theirselves. ❌

Those ovens clean themselves. ✅

Quiz 2

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Which of these sentences uses a reflexive pronoun correctly? There can be one or more correct answers.

A. Amy, Becky, and I are driving themselves to the movies.

B. I have lunch for you and for me. 

C. You must protect himself from them. 

D. John Lennon cann't hear himself singing.


Select any correct answer:

Watch out for lookalikes! ⚠️

Toddler seated between twin babies, looking back and forth between them and the camera in confusion

The reflexive pronoun looks exactly like the intensive pronoun. (Yes, this is confusing!) The intensive pronoun has a different job: it's added to a noun or pronoun to show emphasis.

Intensive pronoun examples:

  • I myself built this house.

  • She worked with Barack Obama himself!

Reflexive pronouns can change the basic meaning of a sentence, but intensive pronouns never change the basic meaning.

Quiz 3

Imagine a cooking competition TV show:

TV show Great British Bake Off: Two hosts say,

People on the show may say all of these next sentences. Which of these sentences uses a reflexive pronoun correctly? There can be one or more correct answers.

A. You must cook everything yourselves with no help.

B. Bread by itself is not a dish!

C. When I ring the bell, you bring the dish to myself and the judges.

D. We are not cooking for ourselves!


Select any correct answer:

Take Action

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