Difference Between Intensive and Reflexive Pronouns

Main Difference – Intensive vs Reflexive Pronouns

The eight pronouns, myself, yourself, himself, itself, herself, yourselves, ourselves and themselves are both intensive and reflexive pronouns. The main difference between intensive and reflexive pronouns stems from their function. Intensive pronouns are used to add emphasis to a sentence whereas reflexive pronouns are used to refer back to the subject of the sentence.

What are Intensive Pronouns

Intensive Pronouns are a special kind of pronouns that are used to add emphasis to a sentence. As mentioned above, the eight pronouns: myself, yourself, himself, itself, herself, yourselves, ourselves and themselves fall into the category of intensive pronouns. Since intensive pronouns are only added to emphasize a noun or another pronoun, they are not essential to a meaningful sentence.

The easiest method to identify intensive pronouns is to remove the intensive pronoun from the sentence and see whether the sentence still makes sense; if it does, the pronoun is an intensive pronoun. Try this method for the following sentences and you’ll note that all the sentences make sense even after removing the intensive pronoun.

The prime minister himself gave me the award.

She made this dinner herself.

He himself told me that I was to be promoted.

You yourself can change your life.

The queen herself came forward to help.

Difference Between Intensive and Reflexive Pronouns

My mother herself made all this food.

What are Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive Pronouns are used in a sentence to refer back to the subject. We use them when the subject and the object of a sentence is the same. In simple terms, reflexive pronouns can be used when someone is doing something to himself. Reflexive pronouns generally act as the object of a sentence.

As the direct object

He saw himself in the mirror and was shocked.

He shot himself in the head.

I pinched myself to see whether it was a dream.

As the indirect object

I bought myself a slice of cake.

He made himself coffee.

As the object of a preposition

You should address the letter to yourself.

She had to cook for herself.

Note that reflexive pronouns as indirect objects and intensive pronouns tend to be confusing. This is because when the reflexive pronouns that act as indirect object are removed from the sentence, some sentences remain meaningful.

For example,

He made himself coffee.→ He made coffee.

In such instances, reflexive pronouns have to be identified by analyzing the meaning. In the above sentence, himself has not been added for emphasis; it implies that he made coffee for himself, not for anyone else.

Difference Between Intensive and Reflexive Pronouns

The child looks at himself.

Difference Between Intensive and Reflexive Pronouns


Intensive Pronouns add emphasis.

Reflexive Pronouns refer back to the subject.


Intensive Pronouns are not essential to the meaning of a sentence.

Reflexive Pronouns are essential to the meaning of a sentence.

Subject and Object

Intensive Pronouns are not used in sentences where the subject and object refers to the same.

Reflexive Pronouns are used in a sentence when the subject and the object are the same.


Intensive Pronouns cannot act as the object of a sentence.

Reflexive Pronouns act as the object of a sentence.Difference Between Intensive and Reflexive Pronouns - infographic

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About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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