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Intensive Pronouns

What Is an Intensive Pronoun?

An intensive pronoun is almost identical to a reflexive pronoun. It is defined as a pronoun that ends in self or selves and places emphasis on its antecedent by referring back to another noun or pronoun used earlier in the sentence. For this reason, intensive pronouns are sometimes called emphatic pronouns.

You can test a word to see whether it's an intensive pronoun by removing it from the sentence and checking to see if the sentence has the same impact.

Reflexive vs. Intensive Pronouns

You can tell the difference between a reflexive pronoun and an intensive pronoun easily: Intensive pronouns aren't essential to a sentence's basic meaning. Understanding this basic difference will help to prevent you from confusing the two.

Both intensive and reflexive pronouns end in the suffix -self or -selves, however reflexive pronouns are always objects that refer to a sentence's subject. The following example shows a reflexive pronoun in action:

Jim made himself coffee.

Without the reflexive pronoun himself, it would be impossible for the reader to know who Jim made coffee for.

In the next example, himself is used as an intensive pronoun. The reader would be able to understand the sentence's complete meaning without this pronoun, but it serves to add emphasis:

Jim made coffee for the king himself.

Here, himself refers to the king rather than to Jim. The reader is meant to be impressed that Jim made coffee for the king.

Common Intensive Pronouns

The following list contains the most commonly used examples of intensive pronouns.

  • Himself
  • Herself
  • Yourself
  • Themselves
  • Ourselves

Intensive pronouns might not be necessary, but they serve the important function of making your writing more interesting as well as more meaningful, particularly in formal situations. Use them sparingly to ensure that the emphasis they provide isn’t lost.

Intensive Pronoun Examples

Intensive pronouns are used to add emphasis to statements. In the following examples, the intensive pronouns have been italicized for ease of identification.

  1. Jesse wondered aloud whether he himself was the only one seeing what was happening.
  2. Maria knew that she herself could make a positive impact on the world, if only she put her mind to it.
  3. You yourself can easily transform your body: All it takes is a proper diet and plenty of exercise.
  4. The team knew that they themselves were responsible for playing their best.
  5. We ourselves are the ones who make the greatest impact upon the world we live in.