Intensive pronouns

The reflexive pronouns in English are myself, yourself, 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

 

See also: List of reflexive pronouns: myself, yourself, themselves, . . .

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