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Difference between Reflexive & Intensive Pronouns

Updated on September 19, 2020
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Muhammad Rafiq is a freelance writer, blogger, and translator with a master's degree in English literature from the University of Malakand.

Reflexive & Intensive Pronouns
Reflexive & Intensive Pronouns | Source

What is a Reflexive Pronoun?

A reflexive pronoun is a kind of pronoun that refers back to the subject of the sentence. It is the doer as well as the receiver of the action. A reflexive pronoun doesn’t affect anything other than itself. That’s why; it is called a reflexive pronoun.

Reflexive pronouns are formed by adding –self or –selves to the singular or plural objective pronouns. They are always used in objective case i.e., after the verbs. Look at the following sentences, wherein the highlighted words are reflexive pronouns:

  1. He hurt himself during the cleanliness of the room.
  2. She considers herself to be an intelligent girl.
  3. You always talk about yourself.
  4. The ladies enjoyed themselves in cold water.
  5. The snake hurt itself.
  6. We deceived ourselves by trusting him.
  7. You should express yourself during the interview.

The following table shows how reflexive pronouns are formed:

Singular Pronouns
Reflexive Pronouns
Plural Pronouns
Reflexive Pronouns

Table showing various forms of reflexive pronouns

Emphatic or Intensive Pronouns

When the reflexive pronouns are used to lay emphasis on the action performed by the subject, then, such pronouns are called emphatic pronouns. Emphatic pronouns are also called Intensive pronouns. For example, the highlighted words in the following sentences are emphatic pronouns:

  1. The students should do their homework themselves.
  2. You should explain it yourself.
  3. She herself invited him to the party.
  4. They themselves appeared before the judge.
  5. The computer itself manages the schedule.
  6. I myself visited his house.

Difference between Reflexive and Intensive Pronouns

There is a huge difference between reflexive and intensive pronouns. Intensive pronouns are used to emphasize the action of the subject, while reflexive pronouns are used when we refer to an action that is directed back to the subject. Compare the following sentences:

  1. The boys themselves hurt their parents.
  2. The boys hurt themselves during the game.

The first sentence shows that the boys offended their parents. There were no other persons or any other cause, except them, that hurt the parents of the boys. Thus, the pronoun themselves here has been used as an emphatic pronoun. It lays emphasis on the action of the boys. To identify the emphatic pronouns, remove the pronoun with –self or -selves from the sentence. If the sentence makes sense, then, the reflexive pronoun used here is an emphatic/intensive pronoun. For example, in the first sentence, if we remove the pronoun themselves, the sentence, The boys hurt their parents, will still make sense. Thus, the pronoun themselves is an intensive pronoun in the first sentence.

If you look at the second sentence, you will come to know that the boys wounded themselves during the game. Here the action of the verb is directed back to the subject. That’s why; the pronoun themselves here has been used as a reflexive pronoun. Reflexive pronoun is an integral part of the sentence. Without it, the sentence won’t make sense. For example, by removing the pronoun themselves from the second sentence, we get The boys hurt during the game which is grammatically and semantically incorrect.

Examples of Reflexive Pronouns

  1. You will hurt yourself if you handle it carelessly.
  2. Feel free and enjoy yourself here.
  3. We have deceived ourselves by believing you.
  4. She disgraced herself by helping him.
  5. He will have to hide himself if he wants to get rid off his enemies.
  6. The bird enjoyed itself in the woods.
  7. I want to express myself before the interviewers.
  8. I cannot force myself to do it.
  9. She rebuked herself for the mistakes she made during the exams.
  10. They love themselves to an alarming extent.

Examples of Intensive Pronouns

  1. I will call him myself.
  2. She herself saw him in the market.
  3. They themselves attended the meeting.
  4. You should do it yourself.
  5. He must write the paper himself.
  6. I will see her myself.
  7. The bird itself flew towards me.
  8. You should appear yourself before the judge.
  9. You can't do it yourselves.
  10. We saw her ourselves at the beach.

Reflexive & Intensive Pronouns Quiz

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© 2015 Muhammad Rafiq


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