Reflexive Verbs in English: Their Structures and Usages

Explore the world of Reflexive Verbs: Their Structures and Usages in English in this detailed guide and more. Dive into the fascinating realm of language, where the intricacies of reflexive verbs await your discovery.

Reflexive Verbs are intriguing elements that enrich our communication. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the world of reflexive verbs, unraveling their meaning, structure, usage, and significance, and some practice Exercises.

So, what are reflexive verbs, and how do they enhance our language skills? Let’s embark on this enlightening journey.

What Are Reflexive Verbs?

A reflexive verb is a transitive verb whose subject and object always refer to the same person or thing, so the object is always a reflexive pronoun. An example is `to enjoy yourself,’ as in `Did you enjoy yourself?‘”Collins COBUILD Advanced Learner’s Dictionary

Reflexive verbs, as the name suggests, reflect the action of the subject back onto itself. They convey that the subject of the verb is performing an action on itself.

 In English, reflexive verbs are identified by the presence of reflexive pronouns such as “myself,“yourself,” “himself,” “herself,” “itself,”ourselves,” and “themselves.

The Structure of Reflexive Verbs

Understanding the structures of reflexive verbs is key to comprehending their daily usage and they are discussed in the following.

Simple Reflexive Verbs

Simple reflexive verbs involve a straightforward action performed by the subject on itself. These verbs are often used in daily conversation and are relatively easy to understand. 

For example:

  • She washes herself daily.
  • They dressed themselves for the party.

Reciprocal Reflexive Verbs

Reciprocal reflexive verbs involve actions that are mutually performed by two or more individuals. In such cases, the reflexive pronouns are used to indicate reciprocity.

 For example:

  • They hugged each other warmly.
  • The two friends greeted themselves with a smile.

Emphatic Reflexive Verbs

Emphatic reflexive verbs are used when you want to emphasize the action performed by the subject on itself. This adds intensity or emphasis to the sentence.

 For example:

  • I myself saw the UFO last night.
  • She herself baked a delicious cake.

Usage of Reflexive Verbs with Examples

Reflexive verbs find their place in various languages, each with its own set of rules and nuances. They are used to express actions that someone does to themselves, emphasizing the subject’s active involvement. 

Now that we’ve uncovered the structures of reflexive verbs, let’s explore their diverse usages through examples.

Reflexive Verbs in Personal Activities

Reflexive verbs are commonly used to describe routine activities where the subject performs an action on themselves. 

For example:

  • Getting Ready: Every morning, we brush our teeth and comb our hair.
  • Self-Care: It’s essential to take care of ourselves by eating well and exercising regularly.

Reflexive Verbs in States

Reflexive verbs can also convey emotions and states of being. They reflect an individual’s inner feelings or conditions. Consider the following:

For example:

  • State: He found himself in a difficult situation.

Reflexive Verbs in Language Learning

Learning a new language often involves mastering reflexive verbs as they play a crucial role in everyday communication. In Spanish, for instance, reflexive verbs are prolific and used in various tenses.

Examples in the Present Tense

1. Me lavo las manos. (I wash my hands.)

2. Ella se peina el pelo. (She combs her hair.)

Examples of the Past Tenses

1. Ayer me lavé las manos. (Yesterday I washed my hands.) – Preterite

2. Cuando era niño, me peinaba solo. (When I was a child, I used to comb my hair by myself.) – Imperfect

Examples in the Future Tense

1. Mañana me vestiré elegante. (Tomorrow, I will dress elegantly.)

2. En el futuro, se cuidarán más. (In the future, they will take better care of themselves.)

Reflexive Verbs in Daily Routine

Reflexive verbs are commonly used to describe actions that are part of one’s daily routine. Here are some examples:

  • I wake up and wash myself every morning.
  • He brushes his hair beautifully.

Reflexive Verbs for Emotions

They are also employed to express emotions or feelings. Here’s how:

  • She prides herself on her accomplishments.
  • They enjoyed themselves at the concert.

Reflexive Verbs in Passive Voice

Reflexive verbs can be used in passive voice constructions. This changes the focus of the sentence. For instance:

  • The book was read by itself.
  • The door closed by itself.

Reflexive Verbs for Mutual Actions

As mentioned earlier, reciprocal reflexive verbs are used for actions involving reciprocity. Consider the following:

  • They complimented each other’s outfits.
  • We congratulated ourselves for doing well in the match.

List of Common Reflexive Verbs

Here is a list of common reflexive verbs you can use in your everyday language:

Bathe: I bathe myself every evening.

Dress: He dresses himself in a hurry.

Relax: She relaxes herself by reading.

Express: They express themselves through art.

Groom: We groom ourselves for special occasions.

Behave: Children should learn to behave themselves.

Enjoy: I enjoy myself at the beach.

Apply: She applies makeup carefully.

Adapt: They adapt themselves to new environments.

Introduce: We introduce ourselves to new neighbors.

Prepare: He prepares himself for the interview.

Concentrate: She concentrates herself on the task.

Educate: We educate ourselves through books.

Improve: They improve themselves daily.

Reflect: I reflect on my actions.

Perceive: He perceives himself as a winner.

Challenge: She challenges herself to excel.

Protect: They protect themselves from harm.

Relocate: We relocate ourselves for work.

Promote: The company promotes itself as eco-friendly.

Repeat: I repeat the mantra to calm down.

Stretch: He stretches himself before exercise.

Pamper: She pampers herself with spa treatments.

Transform: They transform themselves through fitness.

Respect: We respect ourselves and others.

Tips for Mastering Reflexive Verbs

Understanding reflexive verbs can be a bit challenging, especially for language learners. Here are some tips to help you grasp their usage more effectively:

Practice Regularly: Like any aspect of language, practice is key. Engage in conversations and write sentences using reflexive verbs.

Learn the Pronouns: Familiarize yourself with the reflexive pronouns corresponding to different subjects (e.g., myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves).

Context Matters: Pay attention to the context in which reflexive verbs are used; it can provide valuable clues about their meaning.

Seek Resources: Utilize language learning resources, including textbooks, online courses, and language exchange partners, to improve your skills.

Reflexive Verbs Exercises and Answers

Here are some reflexive verb exercises along with their answers in English:

Exercise 1: Fill in the Blanks

Fill in the blanks with the appropriate reflexive pronoun and conjugated reflexive verb.

1. She ____ (dress) herself elegantly for the party.

Answer: She dresses herself elegantly for the party.

2. We ____ (prepare) sandwiches for our picnic.

Answer: We prepare sandwiches for our picnic.

3. He ____ (introduce) to his new colleagues.

Answer: He introduces himself to his new colleagues.

4. They ____ (enjoy) at the amusement park.

Answer: They enjoy themselves at the amusement park.

5. I ____ (wash) my hands before meals.

Answer: I wash my hands before meals.

Exercise 2: Sentence Transformation

Rewrite the following sentences using reflexive verbs.

Original: She combats stress by doing yoga.

Revised: She combats stress by practicing yoga on herself.

Original: John took care of the garden.

Revised: John took care of the garden by himself.

Original: They introduced themselves to the new neighbors.

Revised: They made themselves known to the new neighbors.

Original: Sarah protected her children from danger.

Revised: Sarah shielded her children from danger.

Original: We educate ourselves through online courses.

Revised: We acquire education through online courses ourselves.

Exercise 3: Identifying Reflexive Verbs

Identify the reflexive verbs in the following sentences.

1. She brushes her hair before going to bed.

Answer: brushes (reflexive), going (not reflexive)

2. They enjoyed the movie last night.

Answer: enjoyed (not reflexive), last (not reflexive)

3. He introduced himself as an expert in the field.

Answer: introduced (reflexive), an (not reflexive)

4. We prepared ourselves for the long journey ahead.

Answer: prepared (reflexive), long (not reflexive)

5. She pampered herself with a spa day.

Answer: pampered (reflexive), with (not reflexive)

Exercise 4: Complete the Sentences

Complete each sentence by adding the correct reflexive pronoun and conjugated reflexive verb.

1. He always ___________ (take) a walk after dinner.

Answer: He always takes a walk after dinner.

2. She ___________ (teach) her younger brother to ride a bike.

Answer: She teaches her younger brother to ride a bike.

3. They ___________ (lose) themselves in the captivating book.

Answer: They lose themselves in the captivating book.

4. We ___________ (prepare) a delicious meal for our guests.

Answer: We prepare a delicious meal for our guests.

5. I ___________ (enjoy) a cup of tea while watching the sunset.

Answer: I enjoy a cup of tea while watching the sunset.

Exercise 5: Sentence Transformation

Rewrite the following sentences using reflexive verbs.

Original: Sarah made breakfast for her family.

Revised: Sarah made breakfast for her family all by herself.

Original: They fixed the car.

Revised: They fixed the car on their own.

Original: He explained the concept to his students.

Revised: He explained the concept to his students by himself.

Original: We organized the event successfully.

Revised: We successfully organized the event on our own.

Original: She cleans her room every weekend.

Revised: She cleans her room by herself every weekend.

Exercise 6: Identifying Reflexive Verbs

Identify whether the verbs in the following sentences are reflexive or not.

1. She washes her hair every morning.

Answer: washes (not reflexive)

2. They enjoyed the concert last night.

Answer: enjoyed (not reflexive)

3. He introduced himself to his new colleagues.

Answer: introduced (reflexive)

4. We prepare lunch for the family.

Answer: prepare (not reflexive)

5. She pampers herself with a spa day.

Answer: Pampers (reflexive)

FAQs(Frequently Asked Questions)

Q: What is a Reflexive Verbs and Examples?

A: A reflexive verb is a verb that indicates that the subject of the action is also the recipient of the action. Examples include “I hurt myself,” “She makes herself,” and “They congratulate themselves.”

Q: What are Reflexive Verbs called?

A: Reflexive verbs are also called “pronominal verbs” because they involve the use of reflexive pronouns (e.g., myself, yourself, himself, herself, ourselves, themselves) to show that the subject is performing an action on or for themselves.

Q:What is Reflexive Verb subject?

A: The subject of a reflexive verb is the person or thing performing the action on themselves, and it is often indicated by a reflexive pronoun like “myself,” “yourself,” “himself,” “herself,” “itself,” “ourselves,” or “themselves.”

Q: What 10 examples with sentences of Reflexive Verb?

A: Here are 10 examples of reflexive verbs in sentences:

1. She brushes her hair every morning.

2. He washes himself before going to bed.

3. They enjoyed themselves throughout the night.

4. I need to teach myself how to play the guitar.

5. We should do it ourselves.

6. The cat grooms itself by licking its kittens.

7. He hurt himself while playing sports.

8. She applies makeup to herself before going out.

9. They introduced themselves to the new neighbors.

10. I often talk to myself if I am in trouble.

Q: Are reflexive verbs the same in all languages? 

A: No, the usage and rules of reflexive verbs vary from language to language.

Q: Can you provide examples of reflexive verbs in Spanish? 

A: Certainly! In Spanish, “lavarse” (to wash oneself) and “vestirse” (to dress oneself) are common reflexive verbs.

Q: Are reflexive verbs essential for language learners? 

A: Yes, understanding reflexive verbs is crucial for achieving fluency in many languages.

Q: How do I know when to use a reflexive verb?

 A: Pay attention to the action’s subject and whether it is performing the action on themselves. If so, a reflexive verb is likely needed.

Q: Are there any languages without reflexive verbs? 

A: Reflexive verbs or similar constructs exist in most languages, though the specific rules may differ.

Q: What is the significance of reflexive verbs in literature? 

A: Reflexive verbs can add depth to characters and convey their inner thoughts and emotions, making them valuable tools for writers.


Understanding reflexive verbs is a pivotal step in mastering the English language. Their structures and usages add depth and dimension to your communication skills. As you continue your linguistic journey, remember that practice and patience are your allies. So, go ahead, use reflexive verbs confidently, and watch your language skills soar!