I did it myself.

What is the difference between a "reflexive pronoun" and an "emphatic pronoun"?

What's the definition of "emphatic pronoun"?

2 Answers 2


Reflexive usages:

  • Cats lick themselves to stay clean.
  • Dogs lick themselves when hurt.

The reflexive is needed there because without it the cat or dog would be licking a person or food or the ground....

Another interesting one is wipe oneself [with toilet paper]. Otherwise you could be wiping a counter.

The reflexive usage in English is there to avoid ambiguity re verbs.

  • I find myself thinking about my childhood home in the evenings. COMPARE:

  • I find much to think about in your essay.

  • The child was throwing himself on the bed over and over.

  • The child threw himself on the ground and had a tantrum. COMPARE:

  • The child threw the doll on the ground and stomped off.

WHEREAS: an emphatic pronoun merely emphasizes something about a person in contrast to others or something else:

  • He himself thought it was a stupid idea.
  • We ourselves would never have voted for that dumb idiot.
  • You yourself said you liked French baguettes.
  • The worm itself does not live underground though it starts its life there.

The difference between the two constructs is whether it is necessary for the specific meaning (then it's reflexive) of the sentence or can be omitted without changing the actual meaning (then it's emphatic).

In your particular sentence:

I did it myself.

if you omit "myself", then the meaning (that "it" was "done" by you) still remains:

I did it.

So, the pronoun is emphatic.

A few examples:

He knocked himself out. -- reflexive.
He himself called the police. -- emphatic
They don't consider themselves brave. -- reflexive
They climbed the mountain all by themselves. -- reflexive
They climbed the mountain themselves. -- emphatic

  • 1
    Another illustrative pair that might help: No-one else was willing to quiz the chairman at the AGM, so I asked myself (emphatic) vs I asked myself why no-one else was willing to quiz the chairman at the AGM (reflexive). I think the difference in meaning there is much clearer there than with your mountain example (which in any case introduces the extra complexity of by). Nov 20, 2015 at 21:32

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