Anna and Pete complete their parenting experiment. But which one did a better job? And who will win the extra day of vacation?
Professor Bot: In Part 1 of this two-part lesson, Ms. Weaver gave Anna and Pete an assignment. Ms. Weaver instructed them to do everything by themselves.
“Themselves” is a reflexive pronoun.
In today’s lesson, Ms. Weaver will look at Pete’s and Anna’s research. First, let’s see Pete’s experiment.
(Pete throws the bag of flour on his chair and throws many other things on his flour baby. Next, we see him outside enjoying ice-cream without his flour baby.)
Ms. Weaver: Okay, Pete, let me see your research first.
(Pete hands her a big binder filled with research.)
Ms. Weaver: That’s a heavy binder. And you and your Baby look great.
Pete: Thanks, Ms. Weaver. We feel great!
Ms. Weaver: Anna. Anna, you’re next. Anna? Anna wake up!
(She wakes up but is very confused.)
Anna: I'm here, Baby! I’m here! I’m here! Here's your bottle.
(She accidentally squirts her bottle and milk goes everywhere.)
Ms. Weaver: Anna, you and your baby look awful. What happened?
Anna: Well, I took her everywhere. Everywhere. And I fed her every three hours. So, I haven’t slept since … what day is it?
Ms. Weaver: It’s Friday. What happened there?
(Ms. Weaver points to a large bandage on Anna’s flour baby.)
Anna: Oh, that. Oh, that. I was making myself a salad and had a little accident with a knife. I put my flour baby in front of me. And then I accidentally stabbed it. But I gave it First Aid!
Ms. Weaver: Is that a burn?
Anna: Yes. Yes it is. While I was making myself dinner, I put Baby next to me. I accidentally knocked her into the sink. So I put her in the microwave to dry. That’s when she caught fire.
(Pete smiles, thinking he’s won.)
Professor Bot: Okay. So, we use a reflexive pronoun when it refers to the subject of a sentence or clause.
But we DON’T use a reflexive pronoun with prepositions of place.
Anna uses examples of both in one sentence: While I was making myself dinner, I put Baby next to me.
We use a reflexive pronoun in the first part of the sentence. “Myself” refers to the subject “I.”
But in the second part of the sentence, we don’t use a reflexive pronoun in the prepositional phrase. We use the pronoun “me.” Why? “next to” is a preposition of place.
(Back in the meeting room, we’re about to learn who won the parenting experiment. Pete is smiling, thinking he won.)
Ms. Weaver: Anna, Anna, you should be very proud of yourself.
Pete: Proud? She stabbed and burned her baby!! And she only did one page of research…and it’s covered in milk. Ew.
Ms. Weaver: Yes, Pete. But she followed instructions.
Pete: Hey, I did ...
Ms. Weaver: Please, Pete. Anna, I think your baby has lost some weight. Is there something else you want to share?
Anna: Yes. I’d like to share … these! I made them myself this morning.
Pete: You baked your baby? You should be ashamed of yourself!
Anna: I baked them at the end of the experiment, Pete. At that point, this was just a bag of flour.
Pete: It was always just a bag of flour!!
Ms. Weaver: Pete, will you listen to yourself?! You sound crazy.
Pete: I sound crazy! This whole experiment was crazy!! She was the one who carried around and fed it and ...
(Anna puts a cookie into his mouth. He chews it and begins to smile.)
Pete: Mmm. That is good.
(They all agree and eat the cookies.)
Professor Bot: So, what have we learned? We’ve learned when to use reflexive pronouns and when not to.
Go to our website for more information! You can practice using reflexive pronouns in our comments section.
accidentally – adj. happening in a way that is not planned or intended
ashamed – adj. feeling shame or guilt
bake – v. to make food, such as bread and cake, by preparing a dough, batter, etc., and cooking it in an oven using dry heat
bandage – n. a covering, such as a strip of cloth, that protects or supports part of the body that has been hurt
binder – n. a cover for holding together sheets of paper
bottle – n. a glass or plastic container that has a narrow neck and usually has no handle
burn – n. an injury caused by fire, heat or acid
burn – v. to destroy or damage something by fire or heat
cookie – n. a sweet baked food that is usually small, flat, and round and is made from flour and sugar
dry – v. to remove water or moisture from something or someone
First Aid – n. emergency treatment given to a sick or injured person
knife – n. a usually sharp blade attached to a handle that is used for cutting
knock – v. to touch or hit someone or something in a way that is not planned or intended
microwave – n. an oven in which food is cooked or heated quickly by very short waves of electromagnetic energy
squirt – v. to suddenly force a liquid out through a small opening
stab – v. to wound someone or something with a pointed object, such as a knife
In last week's lesson, Professor Bot taught you when to use reflexive pronouns. This week, he teaches you when not to use them.
Now, you try it!
Use the Comments section below and tell us about a time when you did something yourself, or a person or people you know did something by himself, herself or themselves.
After the holiday dinner, I washed all of the dishes myself. ("I" is the subject and "myself" is the reflexive pronoun.)
Subjects and their reflexive pronouns:
Remember, do NOT use reflexive pronouns:
After prepositions of place:
Ex: I put Baby next to
I put Baby next to me. (right)
Ex: I put my flour baby in front of
I put my flour baby in front of me. (right)
After these verbs: meet, feel, relax, concentrate:
Ex: They will meet
themselves at The Studio next Friday. (wrong)
They will meet at The Studio next Friday. (right)
After verbs that describe things we normally do for ourselves, such as dress, shave and wash:
Ex: Anna got dressed
herself for a day with her new flour baby. (wrong)
Anna got dressed for a day with her new flour baby. (right)
See how well you understand this lesson by taking a listening quiz. Play each short video, then choose the best answer.
Download the VOA Learning English Word Book for a dictionary of the words we use on this website.
Send us an email if you have comments on this course or questions.
Grammar focus: Reflexive pronouns
Topics: Following instructions; describing an accident