Here is how you can learn English the fun way! Start your FREE email English course now!

Find penpals and make new friends today!
exchange; transfer; device
full quiz correct answer

ESL Lesson: Reflections

How to learn English grammar?
Present Simple Tense
Present Continuous
Future Tense
Articles in English
The Articles (1)
The Articles (2)
The Articles (3)
The Articles (4)
Progressive Forms
Passive Voice
Relative Pronoun
Relative Pronoun (2)
Relative Pronoun (3)
Spot the preposition
English Adverbs
Types of Adverbs
Usage of Adverbs
Indirect Speech
Make or Do?
Make or Do? (2)
Phrasal verb break
Phrasal verb bring
Phrasal verb bring (2)
Phrasal verb bring (3)
Phrasal verb hold
Phrasal verb hold (2)
Phrasal verb take
Phrasal verb take (2)
Phrasal verb take (3)
Phrasal verb look
Phrasal verb look (2)
Phrasal verb go
Phrasal verb go (2)
Phrasal verb run
Phrasal verb fall
Phrasal verb get
Word Story: Health
Word Story: Jokes
Word Story: Dictionary
Word Story: Search Engines
Word Story: Weather
One thing or another
Saying It Twice
Colour Idioms
Cool Expressions
Book Expressions
Expressions: In Order/Disorder
Conversations about English
English Language Exercises 2206 English Exercises
This English grammar test package will help you learn new phrases, idioms, expressions and grammar structures every single day. And you won't even have to cram any grammar rules or vocabulary words into your head. Instead, you will be absorbing bits and pieces of the English language almost without realizing it.
English as a second language
Pimsleur Italian Pimsleur Italian
Learn English through this unique audio course! No grammar exercises, no boring English classes. How did you learn your native language? You can learn English the same way! Try this EFL/ESL audio comprehensive program and you will make progress fast.

Get FREE English course via e-mail 

Listen to this lesson (English audio, MP3)

Please activate Javascript for view MP3 player

In Greek mythology Narcissus looked into the water of the pool and saw his own reflection. In other words he saw himself — he saw a reflection of himself. Both those words that I have highlighted are called reflexive pronouns and in both cases the subject and the object are the same just like the reflection of Narcissus. But we''ll come back to that later.

English Grammar through Stories (PDF)Improving your grammar is much easier than you think
Printable, photocopiable and clearly structured format
For use in a classroom, at home, on your PC, or anywhere

Let''s do some more reflecting or thinking. A reflection, apart from being another picture of someone or something as in the case of our Greek friend, who incidentally died gazing at his reflection in the pool, is also another word for a considered thought or coming back to think about something again. If you are writing an account of your childhood for example and you are thinking back to that time, you could call this description; "Reflections of my childhood." Again if you think that crime occurs because of the type of society in which people live, you could say that "The increase in crime in cities is a sad reflection of the poor conditions in which some people live." In these examples you can see that one thing is a sort of representation of another. In fact the older spelling of "reflection" was "reflexion" and we also find "reflective" and "reflexive". The former means "thinking seriously about" — you can be described as "in a reflective mood" when you are deep in thought about has happened. The latter of course brings us back to the pronoun.

Let me show the forms of the reflexive pronoun in tabular form using the same sentence:

  • I saw myself on the TV news last night.
  • You saw yourself on the TV news last night.
  • He saw himself on the TV news last night.
  • She saw herself on the TV news last night.
  • It saw itself on the TV news last night. (Let''s imagine the "it" here refers to the dog!)
  • We saw ourselves on the TV news last night.
  • You saw yourselves (plural) on the TV news last night.
  • They saw themselves on the TV news last night.

Two points to note in particular: "you" as a personal pronoun does not change when it becomes plural but it does in the reflexive pronoun: the spelling of the third person plural — themselves.

Take a look at these two sentences, both of which contain the word "himself" but in each sentence the word has a different meaning:

  • Narcissus himself saw it in the water.
  • Narcissus saw himself in the water.

In the second sentence the meaning is that Narcissus saw a reflection of himself in the water but in the first sentence the meaning is that Narcissus and nobody else saw it in the water. When it has that meaning we call the pronoun an emphatic pronoun but the form in singular and plural and all the "persons" is exactly the same as with the reflexive pronoun. The important thing about the emphatic pronoun is that it is not used always with transitive verbs and obviously is not used with sentences where the subject and object are the same. Now let''s put all that into a very short and simple narrative and try and find which are emphatic and which are reflexive pronouns: Imagine a young man at a party who is very full of himself and who is talking to another person whose back is itself facing a mirror:

Personally I myself have always prided myself on being able to look after myself in whatever situation I happen to find myself. My father himself always taught me to take decisions. "You should make your own mind up yourself and let other people get on with things by themselves." Those are the very words themselves that he used. I don''t know what you yourself do. I mean we are all supposed to try and make the best of ourselves. I guess or I imagine from what you yourself look like that you have a reasonable job. I don''t imagine that you earn as much as I myself do. I assume that you and your family are yourselves struggling to pay the rent or the mortgage? What exactly do you yourself do for a living?'' For a moment the pompous young man turned round on himself. When he turned back he found himself staring at himself in the mirror. The other ''self'' had slipped away and was now enjoying herself in another part of the room talking to a young man who was looking very pleased with himself.

If you have any English grammar or vocabulary questions,
please post them on this English Grammar Forum.

Next:ESL Lesson: Make or Do?

Author: Alan Townend

English Grammar through Stories (PDF)
English Grammar through Stories could be your saviour — it shows you a completely new way of learning. Forget about old-fashioned text books with difficult explanations and boring sample sentences. You can improve your grammar very fast if you know how. The answer is a few clicks away: Read these unique short stories by Alan Townend and absorb the patterns of English grammar automatically. You can only learn if you enjoy what you are doing. You will love the funny characters in English Grammar through Stories because they show the strengths and weaknesses of human nature. On top of all that, each story concentrates on one particular grammar item so all you have to do is read the book and have fun. You will be amazed at how easily you can improve your grammar.

  copyright © 2003—2023  
Get FREE English course via e-mail