What Are Emphatic Pronouns? (with Examples)

Emphatic Pronouns

The emphatic pronouns are myself, yourself, herself, himself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves. (NB: These words can be either emphatic pronouns or reflexive pronouns. This page is about their use as emphatic pronouns.)

The Use of Emphatic Pronouns

An emphatic pronoun refers back to another noun (or pronoun) in the sentence to emphasize it. For example:
  • The Queen herself attended the party.
  • (The Queen is the noun being emphasized. It is called the antecedent of the emphatic pronoun.)
When used for emphasis, a word like herself is called an emphatic pronoun.

emphatic pronoun examples

Examples of Emphatic Pronouns

Here are some more examples of emphatic pronouns. In each example, the emphatic pronoun is shaded and the thing being emphasized (i.e., the antecedent of the emphatic pronoun) is in bold.
  • She will do it herself.
  • (The emphatic pronoun herself emphasizes that she will do it. The waiter won't do it. Her husband won't do it. Her son won't do it. SHE will do it.)
  • The scouts cooked these cakes themselves.
  • (The emphatic pronoun themselves emphasizes that the scouts cooked the cakes, i.e., not their mothers.)
  • I heard the lie myself.
  • (The emphatic pronoun myself emphasizes that I heard the lie.)
Note: It's not always about people:
  • The cat opened the door itself.
You can test if it's an emphatic pronoun by removing it and seeing if you get the same effect by emphasizing the thing you're trying to emphasize with your voice (shown here in uppercase).
  • SHE will do it.
  • I  heard the lie.
  • THE CAT opened the door.

Real-Life Examples of Emphatic Pronouns

  • The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, but raptors are pretty dang scary.
  • Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn't have to do it himself. ("Weiler's Law" by American writer AH Weiler)
  • You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can't possibly live long enough to make them all yourself. (American journalist Sam Levenson)

Why Should I Care about Emphatic Pronouns?

There are two good reasons to know about emphatic pronouns.

(Reason 1) Emphasizing something (obviously)

Using an emphatic pronoun is far slicker than bolding a word, WRITING IT IN UPPERCASE LETTERS, or underlining it. Yuk!

When speaking, you can emphasize a word with your voice, so there is an alternative to using an emphatic pronoun. In writing, however, the alternatives are often unwieldy or ambiguous.

An emphatic pronoun can be removed from a sentence without affecting the sentence's core meaning. In other words, an emphatic pronoun just provides emphasis, but that's a pretty important job. It's often the reason the sentence exists.
  • She will attend the reception drinks herself.

(Reason 2) Avoiding errors with myself, yourself, herself, etc.

The words myself, yourself, herself, himself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves are not posh versions of me, you, her, him, it, us, you, and them.
  • If you have any questions, please contact myself or your line manager.
  • (Remember that an emphatic pronoun emphasizes a nearby noun or pronoun, i.e., its antecedent. There isn't an antecedent in this example.)
  • If you have any questions, please contact me or your line manager.
  • (Myself is not a posh version of me.)
(NB: This point is related to reflexive pronouns not emphatic pronouns. It is included here for anyone who came looking for guidance on this point and ended up on this page.)
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited and printed to create exercise worksheets.

See Also

Me or myself 'My wife and I' and 'I or me' Reflexive pronouns Glossary of grammatical terms