[Pronouns] – Lesson 7: Intensive pronouns vs. reflexive pronouns

The reflexive pronouns in English are myselfyourself, ourselves, etc.

These same pronouns also have a second function and usage – as intensive pronouns.

Here is the difference in usage between intensive and reflexive pronouns:

  • Reflexive pronouns say that someone does something to himself: he cut himself, I told myself,she defended herself, etc.
  • Intensive pronouns emphasise the person or thing performing the action.

Here are some examples of what we mean by emphasis:

  • I myself was surprised by how many people came.
  • Everyone thought the spokesman would make the announcement, but the king himself made the speech.
  • The phone itself isn’t so amazing; it’s the marketing that makes so many people love it and buy it.

We can remove the intensive pronoun from each of the above examples and the sentences will still make sense.

 

myself, yourself, etc. = alone

We can also use intensive pronouns to say that we did something alone, i.e. that no one helped us. Compare the following pairs of sentences:

  • I bought myself a car. [myself reflexive pronoun
    This means that I bought the car for myself, not as a present for someone else.
  • I bought the car myself. [myself  = intensive pronoun]
    This is saying that no one helped me to buy the car; I bought it alone.
  • He cut himself[himself = reflexive pronoun]
    This means that he cut a part of his body, maybe his finger.
  • He cut his hair himself. [himself  = intensive pronoun]
    This second sentence means that he cut his hair alone – he didn’t need a hairdresser or help from anyone.

List of intensive and reflexive pronouns

  • myself
  • yourself
  • himself
  • herself
  • itself
  • ourselves
  • yourselves
  • themselves

[Pronouns] – Lesson 6: Demonstrative pronouns

The four demonstrative pronouns in English are thisthatthesethose.

A demonstrative pronoun represents a thing (or things) and also tells us whether the thing is near to us or far from us. (Near and far can refer to either distance or time.)

Demonstrative pronouns
near to us far from us
singular this
This is my book.
= the book here
that
That is my house.
= the house there
plural these
These are cheap.
= the things here
those
Those are nicer.
= the things there

Here are some more examples

  • This is easy.
  • That’s a good idea.
  • This is a really good movie.
  • That was a really good movie.
  • Those were the best times of my life.

[Pronouns] – Lesson 5: Relative pronouns

The relative pronouns in English are who, which, that and whoseWhom is also used by some people but is considered by many to be too formal.

A relative pronoun introduces a relative clause:

This is the table which I bought.

‘This is the table’ =  the main clause; ‘I bought’ =  the relative clause; ‘which’ =  the relative pronoun joining the two clauses

Relative pronouns
We use who or that when we talk about people.

Who is more formal than that.

This is the man who helped us. 
(more formal)
This is the man that helped us. 
(less formal)
We cannot use what:
This is the man what helped us.
We use which or that when we talk about things (not people).

Which is more formal than that.

It’s the watch which my husband bought me for my birthday. (more formal)
It’s the watch that my husband bought me for my birthday. (less formal)
In informal speech, we can omit which and thatwhen the pronoun refers to the object of the sentence. It’s the watch my husband bought me for my birthday.
In this sentence, ‘the watch’ is the object of the verb ‘bought’ so we don’t need to use that orwhich.
We cannot omit which and that when the pronoun refers to the subject of the sentence. It was the man that sold me the car.
In this sentence, ‘the man’ is the subject of the verb ‘sold’ so we need to use that or who.
It was the man sold me the car.
We use whose to show possession. John, whose brother was also a musician, plays over 100 concerts every year.

[Pronouns] – Lesson 4: Interrogative pronouns

English has five interrogative pronouns: whowhomwhosewhat, and which.

 

Interrogative pronouns
Pronoun asking for / about … Example
What … ? general information What’s your name?
What is your adress?
Which … ? limited choice We have fruit tea and green tea – whichwould you like?
Who … ? a person, a name Who wrote War and Peace – was it Tolstoy?
Whose … ? possession, owner Whose is this pen? Is it yours or mine?
Whom … ? [formal] a person, name Whom did you ask?

 

 

Whom is formal and is not used very often in spoken English. We prefer to use who in spoken English:

  • Whom did you ask? [formal written, formal spoken English]
  • Who did you ask? [standard spoken English]

[Pronouns] – Lesson 3: Possessive pronouns

Possessive pronouns
Possessive adjective Possessive pronoun Example
my mine I bought this flat – it’s mine.
your (singular) yours Are you the owner of this car – is it yours?
his his The house belongs to him – it’s his.
her hers The flat belongs to Sally – it’s hers.
its – – – –
our ours We bought this piece of land – it’s ours.
your (plural) yours This room key is yours, Mr and Mrs Johnson.
their theirs Mike and Liz Jones won the jackpot so all the money is theirs.

[Pronouns] – Lesson 2: Reflexive pronouns

Reflexive pronouns
Personal pronouns Reflexive pronoun Example
I, me myself I looked at myself in the mirror.
you, you (singular) yourself Did you hurt yourself when you fell?
he, him himself He burnt himself when he was cooking.
she, her herself Her real name is Mariella but she calls herselfMary.
it, it itself The animal hurt itself trying to escape.
we, us ourselves We blamed ourselves for the mistake.
you, you (plural) yourselves You can help yourselves to tea and coffee.
they, them themselves The children can look after themselves for a short time.

Compare the words in bold in these pairs of sentences:

 

  • Liz saw me.
  • I saw myself in the mirror.
  • Tom saved her.
  • She saved herself.
  • They blamed us.
  • We blamed ourselves.
  • We sent you an email.
  • You sent yourself an email.
  • We looked after them.
  • They looked after themselves.

[Pronouns] – Lesson 1: Personal pronouns

Personal pronouns
Gender Subject pronoun Object pronoun Examples
male / female I me I saw John yesterday.
John saw me yesterday.
male / female you you You like John.
John likes you.
male he him He loves Angela.
Angela loves him.
female she her She knows David.
David knows her.
neuter
(things, animals)
it it It costs a lot of money.
Eric bought it.
male / female
(plural)
we us We saw John.
John saw us.
male / female
(plural)
you you Do you both live here?
I’ll show you both the garden.
male / female
(plural)
they them They live together in Paris.
We met them in Spain.

 

 

It or he and she for animals?

We mainly use it when speaking about animals. If the animal is a pet, we often use he / him or she / her:

  • The cat’s ill – I’m going to take her to the vet.
  • Our dog sleeps outside in summer but he comes inside in winter.

Ships are sometimes referred to as she / her:

  • The ship was designed in France, but she was built in Italy.
  • RMS Titanic sank in April 1912. She was on her maiden voyage.

When we don’t know the person’s gender: hehe or she or they

English has several ways of using a pronoun to represent a person whose gender we do not know, e.g. a visitor, a traveller, a teacher, a driver, a guest, someone, etc. Take a look at these examples:

  • There’s someone at the door – let him in, please.
  • There’s someone at the door – let them in, please.
  • When a guest arrives, they can go straight to their room.
  • When a guest arrives, he or she can go straight to their room.
  • When a guest arrives, he can go straight to his room.