Intensive and reflexive pronouns
On the last page we saw that "I" and "me" are personal pronouns which we use to refer to ourselves. There are two more types of pronoun which we use to refer to ourselves, intensive and reflexive pronouns. Have a look at these two sentences:
"I made these cakes", Maria said proudly.
"I made these cakes myself", Maria said proudly.
What happens in the second sentence when Maria adds the word "myself"? It adds emphasis to what she wants to say - she wants to really stress the fact that it was her who made the cake and not someone else. We call this type of pronoun an intensive pronoun.
Now have a look at these two sentences:
"Ouch! I cut".
"Ouch! I cut myself".
The first sentence sounds strange. What did I cut exactly? Adding "myself" gives us the answer. If you think back to our brief mention of subjects and objects in the previous section, you'll see that in this example "I" is the subject (the person or thing who "does" the action of cutting) and "myself" is the object (the person who is acted upon). Normally in a sentence the subject and object are different people or things, but in the second sentence above they are the same person. And when the subject and object are the same person we use a reflexive pronoun.
You'll probably have noticed that the word we used as the reflexive pronoun is exactly the same as the word we used as the intensive pronoun ("myself"). So what's the difference, apart from the difference in use that we've just seen?
Well, when we use "myself" as an intensive pronoun, we can leave it out and the sentence will still make sense: "I made this cake" makes sense by itself. But when we use "myself" as a reflexive pronoun, the sentence no longer makes sense if we leave it out. "Ouch! I cut" doesn't make sense by itself. (Sometimes we can leave out the reflexive pronoun when common knowledge makes it very clear what we mean. For example, it's not necessary to say "I washed myself this morning". Common knowledge means we clearly understand what someone means when they say "I washed this morning").
Here are the other reflexive/intensive pronouns and some examples:
|First person singular||myself|
|Second person singular||yourself|
|Third person singular||himself / herself / itself|
|First person plural||ourselves|
|Second person plural||yourselves|
|Third person plural||themselves|
He patted himself on the back for a job well done. (reflexive)
They gave their tickets to their neighbours because they couldn't go themselves. (intensive)