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English Grammar - Intensive or Emphatic Pronouns

What is a Intensive or Emphatic Pronoun?

Intensive or emphatic pronouns end in –self or –selves. Thus, they are similar to reflexive pronouns. However, unlike reflexive pronouns, intensive or emphatic pronouns are used to give emphasis. Furthermore, they make your writing more interesting and meaningful, especially in formal situations. However, it is advisable to use them sparingly so that their effect is not lost. Common intensive pronouns are

  • Himself
  • Herself
  • Ourselves
  • Yourself
  • Themselves
  • Yourselves
  • Itself

Difference between intensive or emphatic pronouns, and reflexive pronouns

There are important differences between intensive/emphatic pronouns and reflexive pronouns though both have the same suffix (ending).

First, an intensive pronoun is not an essential part of the meaning of a sentence. It is just there for added emphasis.

A reflexive pronoun, on the other hand, is an integral part of the meaning of the sentence. It is the object of the sentence, and refers back to the subject. For example, look at the sentence below:

John made himself a sandwich.

The reflexive pronoun ‘himself’ tells us for whom John made sandwich. In the sentence above, ‘himself’ is an object, and it refers to John, which is the subject.

Now look at the following sentence:

Jack made a sandwich for the President himself.

In this sentence, the meaning is complete without the intensive pronoun ‘himself’. It is there just to add emphasis to the fact that it was for the President that Jack made a sandwich. The reader is supposed to be impressed by this fact. Also, note that in the second example, ‘himself’ does not refer to Jack. It refers to the President.

More about intensive/emphatic pronouns

Intensive pronouns may occur right after the pronoun they refer to, or farther away.

In the following examples, the intensive/emphatic pronouns occur immediately following the pronoun to which it refers.

  • I myself took care of the baby.
  • He himself did the machine repairs.
  • You yourself will have to give a reason for your action.
  • Why can’t the facts themselves be used as proofs?

In the following examples, the intensive/emphatic pronoun occurs further away.

  • I cleaned the house myself.
  • You have to give a reason for your action yourself.
  • He has to repair the machine himself.

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