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How to Correctly Use Reflexive Pronouns in Writing & Speaking

Updated on February 17, 2011

Don't Be Too "Self"ish

Reflexive Pronouns

I have taught grammar in two languages for over 30 years and one of my pet peeves is the incorrect use of reflexive pronouns like “myself”.

All the time I hear people answer the standard greeting question “Hi, how are you?” with “Good, and yourself?” I want to scream “You! You! It’s ‘how are YOU?’ not ‘yourself!’” What are they going to answer, anyway, ‘myself am fine’? If you are guilty of saying this, please stop. Every foreigner who learns English practices this dialogue: “Hello, how are you?” “I’m fine, thanks. And you?”

Here’s the logic behind reflexive object pronouns : they reflect back on the subject. Simply look in the mirror. Who do you see? I see myself. You see yourself. She sees herself. He sees himself (there is no such word as hisself). We see ourselves (yes, it’s plural, never singular). They see themselves (again no such word as theirself, theirselves or themself). You would never say “I see herself” or “He sees myself”.

People have stopped using reflexive pronouns when they should be using them. For example, a certain talk show host might ask, “What are you going to do for YOU?” Because he’s emphasizing the word and trying to make a point we ignore the error, but try saying it without the emphasis and you’ll notice the mistake. It should be: “What are you going to do for yourself?”

Many people have started using reflexives when they need a subject or object pronoun. Two examples: John and Mary and myself will be glad to help you. Think, think, think. You wouldn’t say ‘myself will be glad’, it’s ‘I will be glad’ – so it’s John and Mary and I will be glad to help you . Always check what your sentence would be without the other subjects. This means thinking before you speak . . . hmm, interesting concept. (Perhaps you could just avoid words ending in -self.)

Another type of mistake is substituting the reflexive pronoun for an object pronoun (me, him, her, them, us) in a sentence like “Give the reports to my secretary or myself.” Leave out the secretary and see what you would say. “Give the reports to me.” Aha, so then say “Give the reports to my secretary or me.”

1. I’m going to buy (me, myself) one of those new cell phones.
2. I’m having a blast. And (you, yourself)?
3. Did you want to know who’s going to the party? Well, just my kids, my spouse and (me, myself, I).
4. Please contact either Janie or (me, myself, I) at this number.

Correct answers are
I’m going to buy myself one of those new cell phones.
I’m having a blast. And you? (Are you having a blast?)
Well, just my kids, my spouse and I (are going to the party).
Please contact either Janie or me at this number. (contact me)

copyright 2010 by Debra Chapoton, fiction author

Read more on her blog:

Selfish Obsession

Edge of Escape
Edge of Escape

EDGE OF ESCAPE, by Debra Chapoton, reveals the fractured heart of Eddie, an emotionally impaired young man who has spent most of his school years in special education classes. Placed there by an over protective mother who also blames her son for his unintentional part in his father’s death, Eddie is kept separated from normal student interactions. Eddie’s guilt and his place among the unaccepted serve to keep him invisible to the rest of the students, especially the popular ones. His uncontainable obsession for the popular Rebecca compels him to devise a long-term plan to pull her into his world and win her over. What should have been appropriate advances become, for Rebecca, the terror of stalking and abduction. She wakes up trapped, she escapes, and then she makes a wrong choice and is trapped again. Throughout her ordeal as she escapes again and again, there are flashbacks into both Rebecca’s and Eddie’s lives and how those lives have been intersecting for years. If she accepts the fragile spirit who stalks her, does compassion erase evil intent? Can there be forgiveness in this story of survival and obsession?



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      stephanie wiradjaja 7 years ago

      thanks for the information. I wish you will always share informations thru this site. It helps a lot. Good day!

    • bigpinelodgebooks profile image

      bigpinelodgebooks 7 years ago

      Stephanie, the examples you gave could be ordered either way and can be stated without the pronoun and still mean the same thing. In your examples the reflexive pronouns are added for emphasis, therefore it is up to you where it goes. "Eddie will sign it" is preferable.

    • profile image

      stephanie wiradjaja 7 years ago

      Hey. im teaching english for kids. I do get this thing abt reflexive pronouns but i have a question. How to place the ref pronouns in the correct place. E.g: I will have to do it myself OR Eddie himself will sign it. Both sound correct. I just don't know where to put it. Ending or after subject. Pls helpppp

    • kathryn1000 profile image

      kathryn1000 7 years ago from London

      I find I seem to have forgotten a lot of the rules of grammar so I have bought some books to relearn it.But language was invented by ordinary people and usage can change,so i don't feel as strongly as you do about it.a good post.Thanks