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I'm studying English grammar in depth (I have just basics now) and I'm asking myself when to use possessive pronouns (like mine, yours etc.) and when reflexive (like myself, yourself, himself etc.)

When use it and how to use it?

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You use a possessive pronoun to replace a possessive determiner (eg my) and a noun:

This is my hat -> This is mine.

You use a reflexive pronoun when the object (direct,indirect or attached with a preposition) of the verb is the same as the subject:

I fell off my bike and hurt myself - direct
I bought myself a new hat.- indirect
I bought a new hat for myself - preposition

You also use a reflexive pronoun for emphasis

I made it myself!

You can use a reflexive pronoun with by, to mean alone:

I went by myself

You can also use it to politely refer to somebody, but I find this very irritating.

  • Good answer! Anyway, Can I use I bought a new hat for myself? – Streth Aug 6 '16 at 13:24
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    Good answer +1. I'd just bring out the point that the function of reflexives is either complement (grammatically obligatory) or modifier (optional - for emphasis) – BillJ Aug 6 '16 at 13:27
  • @user111444, Yes you can: it is one of the examples that I quoted. – JavaLatte Aug 6 '16 at 13:27
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Possessive pronouns are used to refer to something that belongs to you. Use possessive pronouns instead of a noun with a determiner in a sentence. For example:

Your telephone number is similar to my telephone number.
Your telephone number is similar to mine.

Have you seen their car? It looks like our car.
Have you seen their car? It looks like ours.

In each case here, the first sentence uses a possessive determiner, and the second uses a possessive pronoun.


Use reflexive pronouns to refer to the subject of the sentence's verb, either as the direct or indirect object of the verb. For example:

He threw the ball to himself. (himself is the indirect object)

She injured herself.

Note that when referring to they, there is some debate over the correct reflexive pronoun. The safe choice is to always use the plural:

A person burnt their hand. They hurt themselves.

However, more recently, it has been common to use themself, especially as usage of they to refer to a single person with an unknown gender has increased. This is acceptable (and used by native speakers) in informal speech, but should be avoided in formal speech and writing.

Traditionally, a person of unknown gender is referred to as he, but this is falling out of favour and often now isn't found outside of formal use.

  • Singular themself has always been around in BrE, and was apparently more common in writing a century ago than even today. I suspect the UK post-WW1 women's rights movement was instrumental in raising the profile, but it fell back once that issue was largely settled on the "democratic representation" front. It wasn't until the feminist movement of the 60s/70s that prevalence started to rise again, but it's always seemed natural to me. – FumbleFingers Aug 6 '16 at 14:56
  • @FumbleFingers: The term supposedly dates from the 14th century, but whether it has previously been considered correct is unclear. – LMS Aug 6 '16 at 15:02
  • Apart from some valiant efforts by Webster, AmE has always been much more conservative than BrE. If you compare the slow rise in AmE uptake over the past couple of centuries with the BrE corpus, you might suppose that Brits have been a bit overwhelmed by our more traditionalist cousins a couple of times mid-century. But we've stuck to our guns and we're gradually pushing our usage out into the wider world! – FumbleFingers Aug 6 '16 at 15:13
  • It's true that it has a long history in English, but at the moment it is quite rare, and can't be regarded as standard. – BillJ Aug 6 '16 at 16:28

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