SAT Grammar: Reflexive Pronouns


In my last post Subjective and objective personal pronouns, I discussed the difference between personal pronouns in the objective case and in the subjective case.  In this post, I’ll discuss reflexive pronouns, another type of personal pronouns which is often tested on the SAT Writing section.

What are reflexive pronouns?

The following are the reflexive pronouns: Myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves.

The word reflexive indicates that both the subject and the object of the verb or preposition are the same person or thing.  Consider the following sentences:

She bought a present for herself.

I think that man is talking to himself.

Did you never ask yourselves if that was a good idea?

Sometimes, the fact that the pronoun is an object is not immediately apparent.  Consider the following example:

We ate the whole thing ourselves.

It may seem that “ourselves” is not an object here, because there is no preposition.  (And it is certainly not the object of the verb, as “ourselves” are not the thing that was eaten.)  However, we can assume that a preposition is implied: We ate the whole thing by ourselves.  Note that in this example, “ourselves” is used to emphasize the subject of the sentence.

Reflexive pronoun errors on the SAT

The most common reflexive pronoun mistake you will have to catch on the SAT is the misuse of reflexive pronoun forms, particular the first person singular form.  (The absence of necessary reflexive pronouns is a relatively rare mistake.)  Consider the following example sentences:

Sarah threw the ball to Tim and myself.

Isobel and myself are on our way to the library.

In the first sentence, “myself” has been used mistakenly in place of the objective pronoun “me.”  In the second sentence, “myself” has been used mistakenly in place of the subjective pronoun “I.”

You may also run across incorrect reflexive pronoun forms.  “Theirselves” and “hisslelf,” for example, are used commonly in some areas of the United States, but are not correct in standard written English.

Take this Improving Writing and Identifying errors on SAT practice test

 

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