When we use a reflexive pronoun
We use a reflexive pronoun:
• as a direct object when the object is the same as the subject of the verb:
I am teaching myself to play the piano.
Be careful with that knife. You might cut yourself.
We can use a reflexive pronoun as direct object with most transitive verbs, but these are the most common:
Some verbs change their meaning slightly when they have a reflexive pronoun as direct object:
- Would you like to help yourself to another drink?
= Would you like to take another drink.
- I wish the children would behave themselves.
= I wish the children would behave well.
- He found himself lying by the side of the road.
= He was surprised when he realised that he was at the side of the road.
- I saw myself as a famous actor.
= I imagined that I was a famous actor.
- She applied herself to the job of mending the lights.
= She worked very hard to mend the lights.
- He busied himself in the kitchen.
= He worked busily in the kitchen.
- I had to content myself with a few Euros.
= I had to be satisfied with a few Euros.
We do not use a reflexive pronoun after verbs which describe things people usually do for themselves, such as wash, shave, dress:
He washed [
himself] in cold water.
He always shaved [
himself] before going out in the evening.
Michael dressed [
himself] and got ready for the party.
We only use reflexives with these verbs for emphasis:
He dressed himself in spite of his injuries.
She’s old enough to wash herself.