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What Is an Emphatic Pronoun?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2016
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An emphatic pronoun is used within a statement to add emphasis by reinforcing the object or subject of a sentence through repetition. This is almost never actually required in a sentence, but it provides additional meaning or reinforcement of part of a statement. An emphatic pronoun takes the same form as a reflexive pronoun, which is used to indicate that the object of an action in a statement is also the subject performing that action. The difference between these types of pronouns, however, is that a reflexive pronoun acts as the direct or indirect object in a sentence while emphatic pronouns are essentially unnecessary.

Common forms of an emphatic pronoun in English make use of the suffix “-self” such as “myself” or “herself.” Simple examples of this type of pronoun in use would be sentences like “I went to the store myself” or “The President himself built this house.” In the first example, the word “I” indicates the subject of the sentence, while “went” is the predicate or action that the subject is taking. “To the store” is a prepositional phrase, in the form of the preposition “to” and a noun phrase consisting of the article “the” and the noun “store,” which indicates the direction or destination of the action. The word “myself” is an emphatic pronoun in the sentence that only serves to reinforce that it was the subject that performed the action.

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In the second example, “The President” is the subject in the form of a noun phrase that consists of the article “The” and the noun “President.” “Built” is the predicate or action in this statement and “this house” is the direct object that indicates what the subject “built.” The emphatic pronoun “himself” merely serves to reinforce that it was “The President” who performed the action in the sentence. If the emphatic pronouns were removed from either of these examples, then the meaning of each sentence would still remain intact.

An emphatic pronoun usually takes the same form in English as a reflexive pronoun, using the suffix “-self,” but each of these types of pronouns serve different purposes. A reflexive pronoun is used when the subject of a sentence is also the direct or indirect object, such as “He wrote himself a note.” In this example, “He” is the subject and “wrote” is the predicate, while “a note” is the direct object that indicates what the action or predicate was performed upon. The pronoun “himself” is not emphatic, however, but instead indicates the indirect object in the sentence, which demonstrates who the note is meant for.

If “himself” was removed from the sentence, the meaning would be changed since the person the note was meant for would no longer be indicated. “He wrote a note” is still a complete sentence, but is missing the some of the meaning and clarity of the original. The sentence “He wrote a note himself,” however, uses “himself’ as an emphatic pronoun and no longer indicates the indirect object for the note.

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anon981724
Post 3

"They got themselves into a mess." What is "themselves" here?

Ruggercat68
Post 2

@Cageybird- I myself would tend to agree with you, but you yourself might not have proven your argument. Some emphatic pronouns do add some clarity to the sentence, as in the examples you mentioned. Others, like my first sentence, are mostly gratuitous. I may just want to emphasize that I myself came up with that thought and I'm not speaking for anyone else.

Cageybird
Post 1

I think removing an emphatic pronoun does change the meaning of a sentence, however slightly. Since we assume a leader would delegate manual labor to someone else, it's important to understand that the President "himself" built the house. We'd need to know the police chief "himself" gave the order to evacuate. Without that emphatic pronoun, some readers might assume the house was built under the President's orders by others. The police chief's office may have issued the evacuation order under his name.

By adding the emphatic pronoun, there is no doubt that the subject, and no one else, performed the action in the sentence.

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