Page 148



Reflexive pronouns are a smaller group of pronouns that refer to the subject of the clause or sentence within which it is placed, and indicating that the subject and object of the verb are one and the same. Reflexive pronouns are formed by adding -self (singular) or -selves (plural) to the objective or possessive form of the personal pronoun (myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, oneself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves): She prided herself on her sense of direction. The cooker will turn itself off after three hours.

Note that reflexive pronouns do not necessarily come immediately after the verb, but may follow a preposition: He was annoyed with himself for his cowardice. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Reflexive nouns feature in a number of widely familiar stock phrases: They were beside themselves with fear. She isn’t herself today. He lives all by himself. It’s good to have the place all to ourselves.

Mistakes commonly occur when a writer is tempted to replace a personal pronoun with a reflexive pronoun. Note that it is incorrect to replace a phrase such as Bob and I have to go with Bob and myself have to go. Note also that it would be incorrect to replace a sentence such as Father needed provisions, so I got some things for us and him with Father needed provisions, so I got some things for us and himself because Father is not the subject of the verb got. Possessive pronouns are personal pronouns that indicate possession (mine, his, hers, its, ours, theirs, yours). They can serve as either the subject or the complement of the verb, as required, and do not vary in form wherever they are placed: That seat is yours. Mine is that house over there. It ruined our holiday.

Whose is the possessive form of who or whom: Whose are those shoes?

Note that it is incorrect to render any version of the possessive pronoun with an ’s ending; yours and theirs are the correct forms. Demonstrative pronouns such as this and that (singular) and these or those (plural) are used to distinguish between things being referred to: This is my hat; that is yours.

Guide to good writing - Martin Manser  
Guide to good writing - Martin Manser