Reflexive verbs

Reflexive verbs simply are verbs whose direct objects are the same as their subject. And today we are going to discuss them.

You can also read: English Verbs

What are Reflexive verbs?

Reflexive verb is a transitive verb used with a reflexive pronoun to indicate that the object is the same as the subject.

I hurt myself.  (hurt = Reflexive verb)

So What is the reflexive pronoun?

Reflexive pronouns are the reflexive counterparts of personal pronouns. Here is a list of reflexive pronouns.

Personal PronounReflexive Pronoun
you (singular)yourself
you (plural)yourselves

More about Reflexive pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are used:

– when the speaker or writer is referring to an action that he or she has caused to happen and of which he or she is also the object.

  • I cut myself with the carving knife.
  • Sometimes I just don’t like myself very much.

– when the direct object or prepositional object of a sentence has the same reference as the subject.

  • John looked at himself.
  • John taught himself to play the guitar.

Some verbs take a reflexive pronoun only in particular uses of the verb.

  • Jeremy introduced himself.
  • The cat washed itself.

You can leave out the reflexive pronoun if it is obvious that the subject was performing the action of the verb on him- or herself.

  • Jeremy washed and dressed, then went out.

When a preposition is followed by a pronoun, the pronoun is normally in the object form.

  • They all looked at him in silence.

If that pronoun refers to the subject of the main verb, however, it must be a reflexive pronoun.

  • She looked at herself in the mirror.

The reflexive can be used to make something you say stronger. To make a strong point, we sometimes use a normal subject or object pronoun and a reflexive pronoun as well.

  • He told me himself that he was leaving.
  • I’ll do it myself.

The reflexive can also be used with or without by meaning ‘alone’ or ‘without help’. I think you should try and do it yourself.

  • Did she do that all by herself?

More About Reflexive verbs

There are only a few verbs in English that are true reflexive verbs (the combination of a verb and a reflexive pronoun). A true reflexive verb is one that must be used together with a reflexive pronoun to have meaning. The verb cannot be used with a noun or pronoun object other than the reflexive pronoun.

For example:

  • I perjure myself.
  • we perjure ourselves.
  • you perjure yourself.
  • you perjure yourselves.
  • he perjures himself.
  • they perjure themselves.
  • she perjures herself.

Other true reflexive verbs are absent oneself and bestir oneself. These verbs are always used with a reflexive pronoun.

Other verbs that are not true reflexive verbs can be used with reflexive pronouns as a replacement for a direct or indirect object noun or pronoun.

Similar to true reflexive verbs, these verbs do not have complete meaning unless they are followed by a direct object or a reflexive pronoun:

  • I enjoyed the party.
  • I enjoyed myself. (direct object)
  • She considered him lucky.
  • She considered herself lucky. (direct object)

You cannot merely say, “I enjoyed” or “She considered lucky.” An object or reflexive pronoun is required with such verbs.

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