What Is an Intensive Pronoun? Definition and Examples

Marcus Froland

Have you ever found yourself repeating a person’s name too many times in a conversation and it just sounded weird? Or maybe, while writing an email, you felt that continuously using someone’s name over and over was just too clunky. There’s a simple trick in the English language that can make your sentences flow better, sound more natural, and give your words more impact. It involves something called an intensive pronoun.

Intensive pronouns are like the secret sauce that can turn bland sentences into engaging prose. They help add emphasis without adding bulk, making your writing and speaking both efficient and effective. But how do you use them correctly? And what makes them different from their close cousins, the reflexive pronouns? The answer might surprise you.

An intensive pronoun is a word used to add emphasis to a statement. It points back to a noun or pronoun earlier in the sentence to highlight it. Words like “myself,” “yourself,” “himself,” “herself,” “itself,” “ourselves,” “yourselves,” and “themselves” are examples of intensive pronouns. You’ll often find them right after the noun they’re emphasizing. For example, in the sentence “I made this cake myself,” “myself” is an intensive pronoun that emphasizes that I was the one who made the cake. Unlike other types of pronouns, if you remove an intensive pronoun from a sentence, it doesn’t change the meaning much but does reduce the emphasis on the specific subject.

Exploring the Basics of Intensive Pronouns

Intensive pronouns, while structurally similar to reflexive pronouns, serve a distinct purpose – emphasizing the antecedent. Unlike common pronouns which merely act as placeholders, intensive pronouns highlight the surprise, significance, or importance of the noun or pronoun they follow. They can manipulate the tone of a sentence by signifying exclusivity or unexpectedness, generating excitement or surprise for the reader. For example, imagine reading the line, “Santa Claus himself attended the party”. The mere presence of the intensive pronoun “himself” injects the sentence with a dramatic flair.

Several distinctions must be considered when utilizing intensive pronouns. First, these pronouns are not mere replacements for other words like typical pronouns but are designed to amplify the meaning of a sentence. Second, the use of intensive pronouns directs the reader’s focus to what is truly important within the sentence. Finally, the choice and placement of intensive pronouns affect the overall impact and tone of the message being conveyed.

“The president himself decided to visit.”

In the example above, the use of “himself” as an intensive pronoun accentuates the significance of the president’s decision to visit, underlining the importance of the occasion. The intensive pronoun lends a sense of exclusivity or unexpectedness to the event, thereby making the sentence more impactful and engaging to the reader.

  1. Emphasize the antecedent: Bring attention to the noun or pronoun that precedes the intensive pronoun and is being reinforced.
  2. Influence tone: Shape the ambience of a sentence by utilizing intensive pronouns to convey surprise, significance, or exclusivity.
  3. Impact reader’s impression: Leave a memorable impression on the reader with the use of intensive pronouns, making the sentence all the more captivating.

Intensive pronouns are versatile and, when employed with precision, can effectively convey emotions such as shock, delight, and even disbelief. The following table showcases examples of sentences with and without intensive pronouns, demonstrating the differences in impact:

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Without Intensive Pronoun With Intensive Pronoun
The author signed the book. The author herself signed the book.
The chef cooked dinner. The chef himself cooked dinner.
The team won the match. The team itself won the match.

As seen through these examples and comparisons, the inclusion of intensive pronouns dramatically alters the reader’s perception of each sentence, leaving a lasting impact that furthers the desired narrative and tone.

Identifying Intensive Pronouns in Sentences

Understanding the purpose and structure of intensive pronouns helps you identify them within sentences. We will explore the role they play in providing emphasis and how they relate to their antecedents.

The Role of Intensive Pronouns for Emphasis

The primary role of intensive pronouns is to emphasize the subject they modify, often denoting an element of surprise or noting a person’s impressive achievement. Their usage can transform an ordinary statement into one that captures the reader’s attention, indicating the subject’s direct involvement in the action. For example, when you hear, “The detective himself was the culprit,” the intensive pronoun “himself” adds emphasis to the detective’s surprising role in the crime.

Intensive Pronouns vs. Their Antecedents

In grammar, antecedents are the words that intensive pronouns refer back to for emphasis. Intensive pronouns generally follow their antecedents closely in a sentence, although they can be placed later for different stylistic effects or emphasis. Consider the following examples:

  1. Gale themself paid for the party.
  2. Dr. Watson himself solved the mystery.

Each sentence demonstrates the close relationship between intensive pronouns and their antecedents. In both cases, the intensive pronoun intensifies the subject’s contribution or role in the given context.

The Key Differences Between Intensive and Reflexive Pronouns

While intensive and reflexive pronouns share the same forms, their functions within a sentence are distinct. To better understand their differences, let’s take a closer look at each type of pronoun and their usage in sentences.

Understanding the Usage of Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are crucial as objects when the subject performs an action upon itself. For example, in the sentence “Julianna introduced herself to the new class,” the reflexive pronoun “herself” indicates that Julianna is both exhibiting the action and receiving it. Here are some additional examples of reflexive pronouns in sentences:

  • James accidentally cut himself while cooking.
  • The cat was grooming itself on the sofa.
  • They treated themselves to a luxurious vacation after working hard all year.

Test Your Knowledge: Removing the Pronoun

One way to determine whether a pronoun is used intensively or reflexively is by removing it from the sentence and analyzing the necessity of its presence. If the sentence still holds its fundamental meaning without the pronoun, then it was used intensively for emphasis. To put this to the test, compare the following examples:

Reflexive: Julianna introduced herself to the new class.

Intensive: Julianna herself introduced the new concept.

When we remove the pronoun “herself” from each sentence:

Reflexive: Julianna introduced to the new class. (Incorrect)

Intensive: Julianna introduced the new concept. (Correct)

As we can see, the reflexive example becomes incomplete, whereas the intensive example remains correct without the pronoun. This method of analysis helps determine the function of the pronouns within the sentence.

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Intensive Pronouns Reflexive Pronouns
Add emphasis to the subject or antecedent Reflect the action back onto the subject
Can be removed without compromising the meaning of the sentence Cannot be removed without making the sentence incomplete or unclear
Used for dramatizing or highlighting the subject’s role Necessary for sentence construction to indicate the subject’s action on itself

By understanding the differences between intensive and reflexive pronouns, you can enhance clarity and expression in your writing, creating sentences that effectively convey your intended meaning.

When and How to Use Intensive Pronouns

Intensive pronouns serve a specific purpose of adding emphasis and weight to the subject of a sentence. To make the most of their impact, it’s essential to know when and how to use them correctly. A few key guidelines can help you enhance your writing with these powerful pronouns.

  1. Match the intensive pronoun with the corresponding personal pronoun, such as using “myself” with “I” and “ourselves” with “we.”
  2. Position the intensive pronoun immediately after the noun or pronoun it emphasizes for the strongest effect. Alternatively, place it later in the sentence for different levels of emphasis.
  3. Make sure the intensive pronoun has a clear antecedent in the sentence, as it shouldn’t be used independently.

Below are a few examples demonstrating the correct use of intensive pronouns:

“I myself am responsible for the outcome.”

“The author herself signed the book.”

When mastering the use of intensive pronouns, it’s essential to consider not only their proper application but also their impact on the overall tone and style of your writing. These pronouns should be used sparingly for significant effect and not overused as doing so can dilute their impact.

Intensive pronouns have the power to inject excitement, surprise, and drama into your writing, helping you create more engaging and captivating content.

Intensive Pronouns and Singular Versus Plural Forms

In this section, we will explore the distinctions between singular and plural intensive pronouns, delving into their respective roles and applications in literature. Understanding the proper usage of these forms enhances the clarity and emphasis in your writing.

The Singular Intensive Pronouns: When There’s Only One

Singular intensive pronouns are employed when referring to one individual entity. These consist of “myself,” “yourself,” “himself,” “herself,” and “itself.” By using these pronouns, we emphasize the action or presence of the subject alone.

“I built this house myself.”

In the example above, the intensive pronoun “myself” highlights the speaker’s sole role and effort in building the house. It showcases their unique accomplishment and participation in the event.

The Plural Intensive Pronouns: Emphasizing the Group

Plural intensive pronouns, on the other hand, include “ourselves,” “yourselves,” and “themselves.” These pronouns are implemented when emphasis is required upon a collective subject or group, and they accentuate the importance and teamwork of all members involved.

“We will have to escape the island ourselves.”

In this instance, the intensive pronoun “ourselves” underlines the group’s shared challenge of escaping the island and emphasizes their collective involvement.

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Singular Intensive Pronouns Plural Intensive Pronouns
myself ourselves
yourself yourselves
himself themselves
itself n/a

Intensive pronouns are indispensable tools for enhancing your communication, whether written or verbal. These powerful pronouns, both singular and plural, can create an engaging and dynamic reading experience for your audience. By utilizing these forms effectively, you can elevate your writing to new heights and capture your readers’ attention.

Gender Neutrality in Pronouns: Themselves or Themself?

In today’s rapidly evolving language landscape, it is essential to recognize the importance of inclusivity and adapt language usage accordingly. The movement toward gender-neutral pronouns is a significant step in ensuring nonbinary individuals are comprehensively considered and respected.

As grammar evolves, so too have the pronouns we use to emphasize and respect all gender identities, which has led to the introduction of “themself” as a singular form of “themselves.”

Navigating Intensive Pronouns for Nonbinary Inclusivity

When referring to someone whose gender is unknown or irrelevant, as well as people who identify as nonbinary or transgender, it is best to use the sensitive and inclusive pronoun “themself” to ensure their identity and personal pronoun choice are respected. This emerging usage is increasingly accepted and helps create a more inclusive linguistic landscape in both casual and professional communication.

“A student should be able to choose their own topic themself.”

In this example, using “themself” acknowledges the individuality of the student in question while simultaneously respecting their gender identity. By adopting gender-neutral language like this, writers and speakers can help promote inclusivity, understanding, and acceptance across all gender identities in various contexts.

Utilizing gender-neutral pronouns when appropriate contributes to a more inclusive language and demonstrates awareness and sensitivity in communication. By choosing to employ “themself” over “themselves” in certain scenarios, you are not only showing understanding and respect for people’s chosen identities but also contributing to a more diverse and inclusive usage of the English language.

Improving Your Writing with Intensive Pronouns

Intensive pronouns can significantly embellish a piece of writing by contributing an impactful presence and dramatic flair. Their use expresses a level of self-involvement that captures the reader’s attention, signaling a special circumstance or noteworthy event, such as “You yourselves have the potential to accomplish anything.”

Adding Drama and Emphasis in Creative Writing

Whether you’re writing an engaging short story or crafting an intriguing article, using intensive pronouns effectively can create a vivid impression in your reader’s mind. For example, a sentence like “Abraham Lincoln himself had written the poem” implies an unexpected revelation, adding weight to the historical figure’s direct involvement.

Examples that Illustrate the Power of Intensive Pronouns

By providing examples, you can comprehend the power of intensive pronouns in different contexts. Consider these sentences: “The CEO herself will deliver the keynote speech” and “The athletes themselves cooked dinner for the entire team.” In both cases, the intensive pronoun adds an element of surprise and importance, emphasizing the subject’s significance within the narrative. Experiment with using intensive pronouns in your writing to heighten drama, express emotion, and guide the reader’s focus toward key moments or characters in your story.

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