Best Approaches to Reflexive, Interrogative and Relative Pronouns


A reflexive pronoun is a pronoun used to indicate an action that is effective on the performer. All reflexive pronouns must agree with subjects of the sentences. A reflexive pronoun occurs in both singular and plural forms of ‘-self’ and ‘-selves’.

Study the following examples:

Subjects                                              Reflexive pronouns

He                   goes     with                 himself

I                       goes     with                 myself

You                 goes     with                 yourself/yourselves

We                   goes     with                 ourselves

They                goes     with                 themselves

It                     goes     with                 itself

She                  goes     with                 herself

Rudiments and Uses of Reflexive Pronouns


  1. The singular form ‘-self’ can be used with my, he, she and it because they are singular subjects. For example, say myself, himself, herself or itself, but don’t say myselves, itselves, himselves or herselves
  2. The plural form ‘selves’ can be used with our and them because they are plural pronouns. For examples, say ourselves and themselves, but don’t say ourself or themselves.
  3. Note that ‘Your’ can be used with both singular forms ‘-self’ or ‘-selves’. Look at the illustrations below.

(i)         If you are referring to one person, you will say ‘yourself’. Consider the example below:

Bola, you are deceiving yourself.

Here, you are referring to one person – ‘Bola’.

Compare with this

(ii)        Many of you are deceiving yourselves.

In this sense, you are referring to more than one persons – ‘Many’.

But don’t say:

(i)         Bola, you are … yourselves.

(ii)        Many of you are … yourself.

  1. The reflexive pronouns must agree with the subjects and vice versa. Let’s consider the following examples:

(i)         He taught himself.

(ii)        The hooligans blamed themselves.

(iii)       I secretly hide myself.

(iv)       We always feed ourselves.

It is incorrect to say:

(i)         He taught themselves.

(ii)        The hooligans blamed himself.

(iii)       I secretly hide ourselves.

(iv)       We always feed myself

  1. (a) No reflexive pronoun should be written in separate parts. Consider the examples below.

(i)         Not my self  but myself

(ii)        Not them selves  but themselves

(iii)       Not him self  himself

(iv)       Not our selves ourselves

(b) No reflexive pronoun should be hyphenated. Consider the examples below.

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(i)         Not her-self  but herself

(ii)        Not your – selves  but yourselves

‘Theirselves’ does not exist as a reflexive pronoun. Say ‘themselves’ instead.

  1. A reflexive pronoun may be emphatic or intensive if the emphasis is put on the subject of a sentence. Consider the following examples:

(i)         He himself told me.

(ii)        The money was given to me by Tola herself.

(iii)       The story itself is interesting.

Also, a reflexive pronoun can be emphasised by introducing the word ‘by’. Consider the examples below:

(i)         The students spoke by themselves.

(ii)        You sweep the floor by yourself.

Functions of Reflexive Pronouns 

There are two main functions of reflexive pronouns.

  1. Object of a sentence

(i)         I love myself.

(ii)        Those boys enjoyed themselves.

  1. Object complement of a sentence

(i)         Sulaimon climbs the tree himself.

(ii)        We decorated the pulpit ourselves.


  1. Explain reflexive pronouns.
  2. Use the following reflexive pronouns in sentences:

(i)         myself

(ii)        yourself

(iii)       themselves

(iv)       himself

Concise Discussions on Interrogative Pronouns 

The word ‘interrogative means ‘questioning’. So also an interrogative pronoun is a pronoun used to ask someone a question or questions.

It begins with a WH-word. An interrogative pronoun always begins a sentence, and not in the middle of a sentence as occurred in a relative pronoun. Examples of interrogative pronouns are what, whose, who and which.

Essential Facts of Interrogative Pronouns

We have two essential facts to note in interrogative pronouns.

  1. WH-type question markers give nouns as answers. For example:

(i)         Whom do you wish to work with? Mr Zulu.

(ii)        What is your name? Ade.

(iii)       Who took my purse? Sidi.

  1. No preposition, according to modern linguists, must precede any interrogative pronoun. Instead, it should occur at the end of a sentence. Look at the examples below.

(i)         Whom do you wish to work with?

(ii)        Which city have you been transferred to?

Don’t say:

(i)         With whom do you wish to work?

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(ii)        To which city have you been transferred?

Functions of Interrogative Pronouns

There are two main functions of an interrogative pronoun.

  1. As the head of a sentence

(i)         What have I done?

(ii)        Which do you prefer?

(iii)       Who is mewing like a cat?

  1. As the modifiers or pre-modifiers of a noun in the sentences

(i)         Whose books are these?

(ii)        Which people do you wish to associate with?

(iii)       What statement is that?

In examples B, ‘whose’ pre-modifies the noun ‘books’, ‘which’ pre-modifies the noun ‘people’ and ‘what’ pre-modifies the noun ‘statement’.


  1. Define the following types of pronouns:

(a)        Interrogative pronouns

(b)        Relative pronouns

  1. With relevant illustrations, discuss essential facts of interrogative and relative pronouns.
  2. State the functions of interrogative pronouns.

The Concept of Relative Pronouns

 A relative pronoun is described as the pronouns used to mark a start of relative/adjectival clauses. They normally follow the immediate nouns they qualify in the middle of a sentence.

Relative pronouns serve as qualifiers within the nominal group. Some of the relative pronouns include who, which, whom, whose, what, what, etc.

A Distinction between Interrogative pronouns and Relative Pronouns

Though both interrogative pronouns and relative pronouns share the same examples in some respect, they are used differently.

  1. The interrogative pronouns ask questions and occur only at the beginning of a sentence while the relative pronouns define the noun they follow and they occur in the middle of a sentence. Compare the following sentences:

(i)         Which do you prefer? (Interrogative pronoun)

(ii)        I have found the pen which you gave me. (Relative pronoun)

(iii)       Who are you? (Interrogative pronoun)

(iv)       I saw the boy who stole my money. (Relative pronoun)

As said earlier, ‘which’ and ‘who’ in sentences (1) and (iii) are interrogative pronouns because they begin the sentences to ask questions.

But ‘which’ and ‘who’ in sentences (ii) and (iv) are relative pronouns because they occur within the sentences to qualify the nouns – ‘pen’ and ‘boy’ respectively.

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Essential Facts to Note

  1. It should be noted that the relative pronoun is realised under the following three types:

Relative Pronouns

Humans                                   Both                           Non-humans

Whom     Who    Whose                     That                         Where       Which

  1. As shown in the diagram above, ‘whom’, ‘who’ and ‘whose’ can define or qualify ‘humans’ while ‘which’ and ‘where’ can define or qualify ‘non-humans’ and ‘that’ can define or qualify both ‘humans’ and ‘non-humans’. Let us compare the following sentences:

(i)         The man whose car is stolen is my brother.

(ii)        This is the girl who admires me.                              

(iii)       The woman whom I glanced at is my mother.

(iv)       I beat the boy that disrespects me.

(v)        The pen which you lent me is lost.

(vi)       Lagos is the place where you should be smart.

(vii)      The book that I gave you is good.

It is grammatically wrong to say:

‘The man which …’

‘This is the girl where …’

‘The pen whom …’

  1. Note that a verb or a pronoun can follow all relative pronouns except ‘whose’ that can be followed by a noun before a verb. Consider these examples:

(i)         The man whose car is stolen is my brother.

(ii)        This is the girl who admires me.

(iii)       The pen which you gave me has been lost.

In the examples above, whose is followed by the noun – car, who is followed by the verb – admires and which is followed by the pronoun – you.


  1. What is a relative pronoun?
  2. Use the following in sentences as relative pronouns:

Whose, who, which, that, where

  1. Make a clear distinction between interrogative pronouns and relative pronouns.



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