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Do it Yourself - Reflexives
Holidays are a time when one can relax and let oneself go.

Do it Yourself - Reflexives

Quiz playing is a wonderful way to increase your knowledge of English as a Second Language. Remember that all of our ESL quizzes have titles that are both friendly and technical at the same time… In the case of this quiz you might like to tell your friends about the “Do it Yourself Quiz” but no doubt your teachers will talk about “Reflexives”. If you hear a technical term and you want to find a quiz about the subject then just look through the list of quiz titles until you find what you need.

'Do it yourself' is the English phrase that describes someone repairing or improving their own house, or some other equipment, instead of paying an expert to come in and do the job. Meanwhile there are plenty of jobs and activities that we do by ourselves, and to ourselves, such as washing and shaving. Many other languages insist on having a 'reflexive' structure for this ('I put myself to bed'), but English rarely bothers.

Have a go at this quiz all about reflexives. All your own efforts, of course! ('Do it yourself!')

1.
Which is the most correct, or normal, way for English to express this sentence?
I wash myself each morning at about seven o'clock under the shower.
I have a shower each morning at about seven o'clock and wash me.
I have a wash each morning in the shower at about seven o'clock.
I wash me in shower each morning at about seven o'clock.
If you chose Answer 1 we suspect you may be French ...
Answer 3 is the best version. English people don't need to say that they 'wash themselves', and they tend to do it 'in' (rather than 'under') the shower. These other expressions may well have a logic of their own, but they simply aren't what English people say. We tend to 'have a wash' or 'have a bath' instead of 'showering / bathing ourselves'.
2.
Which is the most correct, or normal, way for English to express this sentence?
She calls herself Mimi.
They call her Mimi.
Her name is Mimi.
One names her Mimi.
Lots of other languages use reflexive verbs to say what people call themselves. (Do YOU ever 'call yourself' by that name, when you're talking-to-yourself inside your head? We doubt that, somehow ...)
English just says 'Someone's name is X' (or, less usually, 'X is my name').
If you know the famous musical (and film) 'The Sound of Music' - starring Julie Andrews, whose diction is such a wonderful model if you are learning English - you may remember the song 'Doe, a deer ...' in which the third line goes 'Me, a name I call myself'. Well, that's true, and it does work in English; but have you ever heard any English speaker actually say it?
(We know, 'Je m'appelle Marie', 'Mi chiamono Mimi' etc ... but that isn't the English way!)
3.
Which is the most correct, or normal, way for English to express this sentence?
In some Mediterranean cities we used to see colonies of wild cats sunning ... .... on the streets, roofs and balconies.
... itself ...
... themself ...
... themselves ...
... them ...
The cats (and colonies) are plural, so we need to start from 'them'; and the plural form of 'self' is 'selves'.
4.
Which is the most correct, or normal, way for English to express this sentence?
Before we go out, I must just ... ... and ... ... .
... shave myself ... / ... brush me the hairs.
... shave me ... / ... brush myself the hairs.
... shave me ... / ... brush the hair on myself.
... have a shave ... / ... brush my hair.
Simple enough, and not a 'self' in sight! (Even in the bathroom mirror!)
5.
Which is the most correct, or normal, way for English to express this sentence?
While their parents ... ... on the beach, the children went away and ... ... among the dunes.
... relaxed themselves ... / ... hid themselves ...
... relaxed ... / ... hid themselves ...
... relaxed ... / ... hid ...
... were relaxed ... / ... were hidden ...
Again, there's no need for any '-selves' here. If, in English, someone 'hides' (for instance), we assume they are hiding themselves - unless we are told clearly that they are hiding something else (like a secret, or a key or money that they're not supposed to have). In English we can 'wash and dress' (etc.) rather more quickly than many other languages, without any loss of understanding!
6.
Which of these would be all right, from the language point of view, as the start of a somewhat sad modern poem?
I walked me down by the polluted stream ...
I walked one day by the polluted stream ...
I walked myself by the polluted stream ...
I went and walked by the polluted stream ...
English people certainly don't need to 'walk themselves'. Answer 4 might be possible, in that we 'go and do something' ('Go and have a look at the weather'; 'She went and bought a new dress'); but 'going AND walking' doesn't quite seem right.
7.
Which is the most correct, or normal, way for English to express this sentence?
Holidays are a time when one can ...
... relax oneself and let go.
... relax and let oneself go.
... relax oneself and let oneself go.
... relax oneselves and let go.
We don't need to 'relax ourselves'!
8.
Which is the most correct, or normal, way for English to express this sentence?
'Goodnight then, everybody; we'll meet again next year; and meanwhile, ... '
... look at yourself!
... look at yourselves!
... look after yourself!
... look after yourselves!
We only 'look at ourselves' in the mirror (usually), and who would want to spend a year doing that? So the verb-phrase we need here, instead, is 'look after' ... (meaning, 'take good care of'). We know that the speaker is talking to more than one person because he (or she) says 'everybody', so we need the plural reflexive form 'yourselves', rather than 'yourself' (individually).
9.
Which is the most correct, or normal, way for English to express this sentence?
Someone has just invented a robot cooker that will prepare your dinner all by ...
... himself.
... herself.
... itself.
... themself.
'By itself' (or, in other circumstances, 'myself / yourself' etc.) means 'all alone':
'I went for a walk all by myself.' ( ... by the polluted stream, or elsewhere!)
In this case we need 'itself', because the machine is neither masculine ('himself') nor feminine ('herself') as it might be in some other languages.
10.
Which is the most correct, or normal, way for English to express this sentence?
After having a minor accident in the street, he needed to ...
... pick up, dust down and get home.
... pick him up, dust him down and get him home.
... pick himself up, dust him down and get him home.
... pick himself up, dust himself down and get himself home.
In these three examples, the 'reflexive' is needed every time, though some English speakers might not say 'himself' in the last part of the sentence.
But we hope you will now recognise that in far more cases than not, English does NOT bother to form a 'reflexive' in the same way as many other languages. The reflexive element is unsaid, but automatically understood: if I say 'I wash', without mentioning what I am washing (such as my clothes, or car) ... what else CAN I be washing, except myself?
In some ways, English is simpler ~ and still, clearer ~ than you may think!
Author:  Ian Miles

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