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compound personal pronouns, reflexive pronouns, intensive pronouns

Compound personal pronouns are compounds made from a personal pronoun and the suffix -self (singular) or -selves (plural).

Structure

In the first and second person, the suffix is added to the possessive adjective my, our or your:

  • First person: myself, ourselves
  • Second person: yourself, yourselves

However, in the third person, the suffix is added to the object pronoun him, her, it or them:

  • Third person: himself, herself, itself, themselves

Note: Avoid using third person compounds formed from possessive adjectives (hisself, theirselves). These pronouns are non-standard.

Use

Compound personal pronouns may be used as reflexive pronouns or as intensive pronouns.

  • Reflexive pronouns reflect an action back onto the subject of a verb or of an infinitive—or onto a possessive noun or pronoun—in the same sentence.
    • Matt caught sight of himself in the mirror.
    • The ski poles will help you to lift yourself up if you fall.
    • Laila’s determination to put herself through college paid off.
    • My plan was to get myself a better job.
  • Intensive pronouns emphasize a noun or pronoun in the same sentence.
    • The students themselves created the sculpture.
    • I will speak to them myself.

Don’ts

Avoid the following common errors with compound personal pronouns.

1. Don’t use a reflexive pronoun unless the noun or pronoun referred to appears in the same sentence.

  • Correct: Megan bought tickets for John and herself.
  • Correct: I bought tickets for John and myself.

BUT

  • Incorrect: Megan bought tickets for John and myself.

In the last example, the reflexive pronoun is wrong because it has no word to refer to in the same sentence. It should be replaced with me:

  • Correct: Megan bought tickets for John and me.

2. Don’t overuse compound personal pronouns for emphasis:

  • I myself am personally responsible for the project.

Here the adverb personally provides the emphasis, so that the pronoun myself is redundant.