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When you write or give a speech, sometimes you want to emphasize how somebody or something did an action themself. In this case, you will need to use intensive pronouns. 

An intensive pronoun is a pronoun ending in -self or -selves. It’s intended to add intensity or place emphasis on the noun or pronoun used earlier in the sentence. Another name for intensive pronouns is emphatic pronouns

Intensive Pronouns

In the examples below, you can see that the intensive pronouns serve to emphasize who indeed performed the action:

  • She herself crocheted that lunchbag.
  • He himself will pick up the dessert and bring it over. 
  • The boy himself built the treehouse. 

If you remove an intensive pronoun from a sentence, the sentence still makes sense, but will lack the impact that it had with the intensive pronoun in place:

  • She crocheted that lunchbag.
  • He will pick up the dessert and bring it over. 
  • The boy built the treehouse. 

What Is the Difference Between Reflexive and Intensive Pronouns?

Because an intensive pronoun ends in -self or -selves, it can sometimes be confused with reflexive pronouns.

Reflexive pronouns are pronouns that, like intensive pronouns, also end in -self or -selves, but they function as an indirect object in a sentence.

To review, an indirect object is the noun or pronoun that benefits indirectly from an action that the subject performs.

To illustrate: 

  • The cat gave herself a bath. 
  • She poured herself a cup of coffee. 
  • She treated herself to a shopping spree. 

In the above sentences, the reflexive pronouns are the indirect beneficiaries of the different actions. To whom did the cat give a bath? Herself. For whom did she pour a cup of coffee? Herself. Whom did she treat to a shopping spree? Herself. 

One way of differentiating them is that removing an intensive pronoun does not change the meaning of the sentence. On the other hand, a reflexive pronoun is necessary for the sentence to carry the writer’s intended meaning. 

Let’s try removing the reflexive pronouns from the above examples: 

  • The cat gave a bath. 
  • She poured a cup of coffee. 
  • She treated to a shopping spree.

As you can see, the sentences lose their original meanings. 

Examples of Intensive Pronouns

Because we use intensive pronouns to emphasize actions that anyone does, we can add -self to just about any singular pronoun and -selves to any plural pronoun, as follows: 

  • myself
  • yourself
  • himself
  • herself
  • themselves
  • ourselves
  • itself 

Although you can easily remove intensive pronouns from a sentence and still retain the meaning, they serve the special purpose of highlighting the person performing the action. 

Because they’re meant to provide emphasis, you should use them sparingly so that you don’t attack your reader with too many of them: 

  • The girl herself opened the door, and the boy handed over the gift he had painstakingly wrapped himself. 

See what we mean? Pick the part of the sentence that needs the emphasis the most, and stick with it. 

Using an Intensive Pronoun in a Sentence

To use an intensive pronoun, you either put the pronoun with the -self or -selves suffix right after the noun or pronoun that it’s meant to emphasize. See the examples below:

  • David wondered whether he himself had to do something. 
  • She herself sang as loudly as she could, but nothing seemed to be happening. 
  • The coach says we ourselves have the power to transform our bodies. 
  • The children knew that they themselves were responsible for the success of the school play, so everyone practiced as much as he could. 
  • We ourselves are in charge of our own destiny. 

Sometimes, you may also place the pronoun with the suffix -self or -selves after the action:

  • David wondered whether he had to do something himself.
  • She sang as loudly as she could herself, but nothing seemed to be happening. 
  • The coach says we have the power to transform our bodies ourselves

Intensive Pronouns Quiz

Test your knowledge with this free Intensive Pronouns Quiz PDF. Circle any intensive pronoun in the sentences below. If there is none, leave the sentence unmarked. 

  1. The girl told herself not to worry; her boyfriend would surely come around sooner or later. 
  2. The teacher herself explained the process on the board so nobody could miss it. 
  3. The principal himself gave the speech condemning the act of discrimination. 
  4. Did the company itself give out support to its employees? 
  5. She lit herself some aromatic candles; she needed to relax tonight. 
  6. The secretary herself transcribed the CEO’s speech. 
  7. The president himself went down to see the refugees. 
  8. Did you see the mother cat? She herself made sure each of her kittens was safe from the fire. 
  9. The dog settled itself by its master’s feet, warm beside the fire. 
  10. Theodore Roosevelt wrote his speech himself. 
  11. Did you do that yourself? 
  12. Telling others about what you did is like patting yourself on the back. 
  13. The birds themselves seemed to know something was wrong; they’d never acted like this before. 
  14. Almanzo raised the giant pumpkin himself, and won the blue ribbon. 
  15. The little boy carved himself a new whistle. 

Answer Key 

  • The girl told herself not to worry; her boyfriend would surely come around sooner or later. 
  • The teacher herself explained the process on the board so nobody could miss it. 
  • The principal himself gave the speech condemning the act of discrimination. 
  • Did the company itself give out support to its employees? 
  • She lit herself some aromatic candles; she needed to relax tonight. 
  • The secretary herself transcribed the CEO’s speech. 
  • The president himself went down to see the refugees. 
  • Did you see the mother cat? She herself made sure each of her kittens was safe from the fire. 
  • The dog settled itself by its master’s feet, warm beside the fire. 
  • Theodore Roosevelt wrote his speech himself
  • Did you do that yourself
  • Telling others about what you did is like patting yourself on the back. 
  • The birds themselves seemed to know something was wrong; they’d never acted like this before. 
  • Almanzo raised the giant pumpkin himself, and won the blue ribbon. 
  • The little boy carved himself a new whistle.

Using Intensive Pronouns 

Now that you know the use of intensive pronouns, you can effectively add more emphasis in your writing. (Just be careful not to overuse them, or else you risk losing the impact of the extra emphasis!)

Learn more about using personal pronouns so you can always be precise and clear in your writing.

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