Pronouns that end in -self or -selves are called reflexive pronouns. There are nine reflexive pronouns: myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, oneself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves.
Reflexive pronouns are used when the same person is the subject and the object of the verb.
• I cut myself (while) shaving this morning.
[The subject ‘I‘ is also the object of the sentence, so we use the reflexive pronoun myself.]
• Julie helped herself.
• We kept ourselves warm around the fire.
If the object of a preposition refers to a previous noun or pronoun, use a reflexive pronoun:
• Julie bought it for herself.
• He looked at himself in the mirror.
Reflexive pronouns help avoid confusion and nonsense. Without them, we might be stuck with sentences like “Julie helped Julie.”
The object myself is the same person as the subject ‘I‘, performing the act of working.
INCORRECT: My brother and
myself did it.
CORRECT : My brother and I did it.
Don’t use myself unless the pronoun ‘I‘ or ‘me‘ precedes it in the sentence.
INCORRECT: Please give it to John or
CORRECT : Please give it to John or me.
CORRECT : You saw me being myself.
[Myself refers back to me in the act of being.]
A sentence like ‘Help yourself‘ looks like an exception to the rule until we realize it’s shorthand for ‘You may help yourself‘.
In certain cases, a reflexive pronoun may come first.
• Doubting himself, the man proceeded cautiously.
Reflexive pronouns are also used for emphasis when it is placed right after the subject.
• He himself finished the whole job.
• I myself didn’t believe anything she said.
‘Enjoy’ is often used with a reflexive pronoun.
• Did you enjoy yourself at the party?
• From their postcard, it sounds like they’re really enjoying themselves.
The phrase ‘by yourself’ means alone.
• He lives by himself in a cottage by the lake.
• I’m rather anti-social; I love being by myself
Reflexive pronouns can also be used to mean me, you, him, her, etc. and nobody else.
• Did you do this homework yourself, or did you get help?