Explanations » B2 Grammar Explanations » Reflexive and reciprocal pronouns

Reflexive pronouns

The reflexive pronouns are myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves. There is also a reflexive generic pronoun: oneself.

Same subject and object

Reflexive pronouns are normally used when a subject and an object are the same person.

  • She cut herself chopping the onions. 
  • We really enjoyed ourselves at the party. 
  • Talking to oneself is not necessarily a sign of madness. 

After preposition

We can use reflexive pronouns after most prepositions if they refer back to the subject.

  • He should be really proud of himself
  • With the 3-D printer and this scanner, you can print a small version of yourself

NOT after prepositions of place

We don’t use reflexive pronouns after prepositions of place; we use object pronouns instead.

  • She told her husband to sit in the chair in front of her. (NOT of herself)
  • They put their luggage behind them

And we don’t use reflexive pronouns after with when it means ‘accompanied by’.

  • He took his son with him.

To emphasise who did the action

We also use a reflexive pronoun to emphasise that the subject does the action, and nobody else. In this sense, we can use the reflexive at the end of the sentence or after the subject.

  • I will talk to Anna myself
  • I think you should do it yourself, instead of having it done. 
  • Paul himself designed everything. 

By oneself

We can say by myself, by yourself, etc. to mean ‘alone, without anybody else’, or also to mean ‘without anybody’s help’.

  • My son doesn’t like to be by himself, he always wants us around. 
  • She raised her four children by herself

We can also say on my own, on your own, etc.

  • I was on my own, all morning.
  • She did it on her own.

Verbs with NO reflexive pronoun

Students of English often make mistakes when they use some verbs which are used reflexively in their language but not in English. Some of these verbs are dress, shave, wash, relax, hurry, or open.

  • The first thing I do is wash, shave, and dress. (NOT wash/shave/dress myself)
  • When I arrive home I only want to relax on the sofa. 
  • Please, hurry or we’ll be late. 
  • The door opened and everybody got in. 


Reciprocal pronouns

We use each other or one another when person A does something to person B, and person B does something to person A.

  • When the twins found each other, they had been living apart for more than 10 years. 
  • You should try to understand one another

We also can use the possessive forms each other’s and one another’s.

  • The lovers were found in each other’s arms. 
  • The couple enjoyed one another’s company so much that they soon decided to move in together.