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Intensive Pronouns in English Grammar

Pronouns are words that take the place of nouns, noun phrases, and other grammatical forms. Intensive pronouns are pronouns that add emphasis to a statement. In English grammar, intensive pronouns are identical to reflexive pronouns. Unlike reflexive pronouns, however, intensive pronouns can be removed without altering the meaning or grammaticality of a sentence. The nine intensive pronouns in English are:

  • myself (first person singular)
  • yourself (second person singular)
  • himself (third person singular masculine)
  • herself (third person singular feminine)
  • itself (third person singular neuter)
  • ourselves (first person plural)
  • yourselves (second person plural)
  • themselves (third person plural)
  • oneself (indefinite)

Intensive pronouns perform two grammatical functions: appositive and adjunct adverbial.

Intensive Pronouns as Appositives

The first grammatical function performed by the intensive pronoun is the appositive. Appositives are words, phrases, and clauses that support another word, phrase, or clause by describing or modifying the other word, phrase, or clause. For example:

  • I myself cooked the entire Thanksgiving meal.
  • Jay wondered aloud whether he himself was the only one witnessing the catastrophe.
  • Edie knew that she herself could make a positive impact on the world.
  • The presidents themselves made the big announcement.
  • We ourselves must tackle the issues at hand.
  • The Pope himself pardoned the criminal.

Intensive pronouns functioning as appositives emphasize the antecedent.

Intensive Pronouns as Adjunct Adverbials

The second grammatical function performed by the intensive pronoun is the adjunct adverbial. Adjunct adverbials are words, phrases, and clauses that modify an entire clause by providing additional information about time, place, manner, condition, purpose, reason, result, and concession. For example:

  • I painted the entire house myself.
  • The teacher did not know the answer herself.
  • He had been hanging the Christmas lights himself.
  • We made the coffee ourselves.
  • The cat rescued its kittens from the fire itself.
  • The children will clean their rooms themselves.

Intensive pronouns functioning as adjunct adverbials often appear at the end of a sentence and usually answer the question, “By whom-self?”

Ending in -self or -selves, intensive pronouns are pronouns that add emphasis to a statement and that can be removed without altering the meaning or grammaticality of a sentence. Intensive pronouns perform two functions within English grammar: appositive and adjunct adverbial.

References

Brinton, Laurel J. & Donna M. Brinton. 2010. The linguistic structure of Modern English, 2nd edn. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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