Intensive Pronoun — Definition, List, and Examples

Daniel Bal
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Daniel Bal
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Courtney Adamo
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Paul Mazzola

What is an intensive pronoun?

An intensive pronoun is a type of pronoun that references back to the antecedent or subject of the sentence. Intensive pronouns end in “-self” or “-selves” and are used to emphasize who completed the action in the sentence.

Intensive pronoun list

There are five singular and three plural intensive pronouns in the English language:

  • Myself

  • Yourself

  • Himself

  • Herself

  • Itself

  • Ourselves

  • Yourselves

  • Themselves

Intensive pronoun list
Intensive pronoun list

Writers and speakers use intensive pronouns to emphasize the action of the subject, which tends to be unexpected.

Lydia herself won the competition without any help.

An intensive pronoun is usually placed immediately following the noun, noun phrase, or personal pronoun the writer or speaker wishes to emphasize. However, it can also be placed later in a sentence.

Stacey felt the need to find the dog's owner herself.

How to use intensive pronouns
How to use intensive pronouns

The intensive pronoun must match the noun or pronoun in both gender and number. If the noun is singular and male, so too should be the pronoun:

Steve himself wanted to finish painting the garage.

If the noun is plural, so too should be the pronoun:

The family was able to win the entire game themselves.

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Intensive pronoun examples

The following is an example sentence using the intensive pronoun “himself”:

The homeowner himself decided to put up the fence his neighbor wanted.

Himself is an intensive pronoun because it refers back to the homeowner, emphasizing who completed the action in the sentence. Its use highlights that it was unexpected for the homeowner to build the fence his neighbor wanted.

These sentences incorporate examples of intensive pronouns:

  1. After spending a day at the dog park, Allison herself decided she was more of a cat person.

  2. The quarterback himself decided it would be better if he didn't finish the game.

  3. The cast and crew wanted to build the entire set themselves without professional help.

  4. We thought it best to make dinner ourselves rather than wait all night.

  5. I'm impressed that you were able to clean the entire house yourself.

Reflexive vs. intensive pronouns

A reflexive pronoun "reflects" back to the subject of the sentence, whereas an intensive pronoun "emphasizes" the subject. Both types of pronouns end in "self" or "selves"; however, they ultimately perform different functions within a sentence – emphasis vs. refection.

Reflexive vs. intensive pronouns
Reflexive vs. intensive pronouns

To determine if a pronoun is intensive or reflexive, remove the pronoun from the sentence.

If removing the pronoun does not change the sentence’s meaning, it is not essential, making it intensive:

  • Diane herself was able to complete the project without anyone's help.

  • Diane was able to complete the project without anyone's help.

Removing a reflexive pronoun makes the sentence seem incomplete, which makes its use essential:

  • John had to force himself to work on the project.

  • John had to force to work on the project.

Reflexive pronoun examples

The following sentences contain reflexive pronouns:

  1. Vince hurt himself, trying to lift the couch on his own.

  2. Wendy introduced herself to the entire class.

  3. I tried to stop eating the cookies, but I couldn't help myself.

  4. The audience found themselves awestruck by the singer's talent.

  5. Our dog found itself stuck in the backyard due to the new fence.