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Reflexive pronouns

What are reflexive pronouns? When a subject and an object of the sentence are the same thing, it's time to use a reflexive pronoun, as in "I saw myself in the mirror". The subject is "I", and the object is "me", but it's not grammatical in Standard English to say "I saw me in the mirror". Instead, you'd say "myself".

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Video transcript

- [Voiceover] Hello, grammarians. Let's talk about reflexive pronouns and just as a word of warning, this means I'm going to be talking about myself a lot. What I mean is that, in English, we have this distinction between the personal pronoun, so for example, me, and its reflexive pronoun, which is myself. And we use these pronouns in very specific cases. So I'm gonna show you what all of those reflexive pronouns look like contrasted with their personal pronoun forms and then we're going to talk about how we use them. So in the first person we say the personal pronoun is me, the reflexive pronoun is myself. The first person plural personal pronoun is us and the reflexive form of that is ourselves. Then in the second person, both plural and singular personal pronoun is you and then, in the reflexive it can be either yourself when you're addressing one person or yourselves when the "you" you are talking to consists of more than one person. The singular third person pronouns look like this it, her, and him and their reflective versions are as follows... itself, herself, and himself. Finally, the personal pronoun them becomes the reflexive pronoun, themselves. Now, all of these are what we would call object pronouns. They can all be the object of a verb. So they're never the do-ers, they're always the do-ees. With the exception of you or it, none of these pronouns can be the subject of a sentence. In Standard American English, it is not grammatical to say "Me eat a cookie" for example. It's part of why Cookie Monster sounds so funny. So then the question becomes, when do you use these? So the place for these object pronouns to go is in the back end of a sentence. what we call the predicate, where the object of the verb lives. So, for example, "She poked me." She is the subject of the sentence and me is the object, is the object of the verb poked. It is the do-ee, it is the thing that something is done to not the do-er. So that's when you'd use object pronouns, generally. But, when do you use reflexive pronouns? You use reflexive pronouns when the subject and the object of a sentence are the same thing. Let me show you an example sentence. Janelle made herself breakfast. So in this sentence, herself and Janelle are the same person as opposed to the other possibility which is Janelle making breakfast for someone else. Janelle made us breakfast, and in this case, this usage is not reflective. She's not doing a thing for herself or to herself. She's making breakfast for other people. And so, you'd just use the regular personal object pronoun there. You can only use the reflexive pronoun when the subject and the object of the sentence are the same thing. Janelle is the same thing as herself. Janelle is not the same thing as us, so we would say us here and not ourselves. How about this one? Roderick saw me in the mirror. Now I am not named Roderick. I am not the same thing as Roderick, and if I were writing a sentence about myself, I would say, I saw myself in the mirror. Roderick and I, me, are not the same person. I and myself are the same person. The same person as Roderick is Roderick. So if we were to say, Roderick saw Roderick in the mirror, we would render that as, Roderick saw himself because the subject here and the object here are the same thing. So remember, you use reflexive pronouns when the subject and the object of a sentence are the same thing. It's really easy to get tripped up this way, especially if there's a compound object in the sentence. For example, you can talk to Vidya or myself. I see this all the time, and in Standard American English this is not correct because you is not the same thing as me. And it's easy to get confused because you're talking about two people here in this object and that's a little befuddling. It kind of throws you off. And so there's a test you can do. If you're unsure of whether or not it should be Vidya or myself or Vidya or me, which is what I would say, how do you tell? Take the other person out of the object, just for a little bit. So would you say, you can talk to myself or would you say, you can talk to me? Well, since we know you is not the same thing as myself, and you can only use reflexive pronouns when the subject and the object are the same thing, the answer is me. So then, we bring Vidya back, we bring the other part of the object back, and it becomes, you can talk to Vidya or me. So when in doubt, sub it out. Take the other part of the object and just pretend it's not there and just think about how the subject and the object connect. Chances are, you won't actually end up using a reflexive pronoun. Perform that little check and you'll never go wrong. You can learn anything. David out.