Chinese Reflexive Pronouns
Myself in Chinese – 自己 Ziji, 本身 Ben Shen and 本人 Ben Ren
In Mandarin, there are also Chinese Reflexive Pronouns – 自己 Zìjǐ, 本身 Běnshēn and 本人 Běnrén. They mean self, oneself, itself or rather, myself in Chinese.
In many cases, adding Chinese Reflexive Pronouns 自己 Zìjǐ are necessary to form a complete sentence such as “Protect yourself – 保护自己. In other contexts, the additional word of 自己 Zìjǐ is to emphasise on the subject mentioned.
In short, the word 自己 can also be made redundant in the sentences and still be correct after all － 我
自己都不想去，怎么会叫他去? | I , myself do not want to go, why would I want him to go?
We can substitute the word 自己 Zìjǐ with the term 本身 Běnshēn in some sentences. There are exceptions where words which are reflexive by nature, such as “Protect yourself | 保护自己” is not replaceable by “本身“. In summary, we do not say “保护本身” because it is a wrong use of the reflexive verb.
The table below will show you a generic placement of the words after the Subject Pronouns.
Table of English Reflexive Pronouns List
|Subject Pronouns||Reflexive Pronouns|
Table of Chinese Reflexive Pronouns List
Subject Pronoun + Reflexive Pronoun
|Subject Pronouns||Reflexive Pronouns|
|你，您||你自己, 你本身, 您自己, 您本身|
Chinese Reflexive Pronouns with Ziji 自己
Here are some Chinese Reflexive Pronouns with 自己 Zìjǐ that are very commonly used by the Chinese people when giving advises to others or as a reminder to oneself.
In a relationship, learn to protect yourself and not have too much hurt.
Bǎo hù zì jǐ.
Zài gǎn qíng shàng, yào xué zhe bǎo hù zì jǐ, bù yào shòu tài duō shāng hài.
Take care of oneself.
When you are living overseas, remember to take care of yourself.
Zhào gù zì jǐ.
Nǐ zài guó wài zhù, jì dé zhào gù zì jǐ.
Why live for others? Be yourself.
Zuò huí zì jǐ.
Hé bì wèi bié rén ér huó? Zuò huí zì jǐ.
Take care of one’s image.
Over there, do not talk nonsense. Take care of your image.
Gù zì jǐ xíng xiàng.
Zài nà lǐ, bù yào hú shuō bā dào, yào gù zì jǐ xíng xiàng.
Do not care about oneself.
I do not care about myself. I care most about you (feeling related sentence).
Bù zài hū zì jǐ.
Wǒ bù zài hū zì jǐ, zuì zài hū de shì nǐ.
As a person, why do you have to make yourself suffer?
Wěi qu zì jǐ.
Zuò rén hé bì wěi qu zì jǐ?
Chinese Reflexive Pronouns with 自己 Ziji or 本身 Ben Shen
The sentences below can use either自己 Zìjǐ, 本身 Běnshēn or both at the same time to further strengthen the emphasis of oneself. This interchanging of both the word order position is possible only when they come directly after the pronouns or the subject.
Pronouns / Subject + 自己 / 本身 + Information
*In such sentence construction, the Chinese reflexive pronouns can be dropped too. Grammatically, it is correct since the Chinese Reflexive Pronouns only act as a supplemental emphasis on the mentioned subject.
I, myself do not like to go to his house, how would I ask you (plural) to go?
Wǒ zì jǐ dōu bù xǐ huān qù tā jiā, zěn me kě néng jiào nǐ men qù?
Wǒ běn shēn dōu bù xǐ huān qù tā jiā, zěn me kě néng jiào nǐ men qù?
You, yourself are a Chinese teacher and do not need someone to teach your children Mandarin.
Nǐ zìjǐ shì gè zhōng wén lǎo shī, bù xū yào qǐng bié rén lái jiào nǐ de hái zi zhōng wén.
Nǐ běn shēn shì gè zhōng wén lǎo shī, bù xū yào qǐng bié rén lái jiào nǐ de hái zi zhōng wén.
They, themselves know what to do.
Tā men zì jǐ zhī dào gāi zěn me zuò.
Tā men běn shēn zhī dào gāi zěn me zuò.
My mother is a very thrifty person.
Wǒ mā mā zì jǐ shì gè hěn jié jiǎn de rén.
Wǒ mā mā běn shēn shì gè hěn jié jiǎn de rén.
Bear in mind that both the pronouns are not in a fixed position. The words can be split up into a sentence most of the times. The next section will demonstrate this.
Chinese Reflexive Pronouns with 自己 Ziji + Action Verb
When the Chinese Reflexive Pronouns have placed away from the Subject/Subject Pronouns (unlike the above) and accompanied by an action verb, the placement of自己Zìjǐ becomes mandatory in the Chinese sentence to form a complete sentence.
Pronouns / Subject + Info + 自己 + Verb + Info
From the sentences below, we do not use 本身Běnshēn as a substitute for 自己 Zìjǐ as it is not correct. On the contrary, there are many instances where 本身 could be used to replace 自己. I would say it takes some time for one to figure out at a higher Chinese level when we should deploy 本身 in the right sense.
Every day, the children walk to school by themselves (without accompany).
Hái zi men měi tiān zì jǐ zǒu qù xué xiào.
We travel and pay our own.
Wǒ men chū guó lǚ xíng shì zì jǐ hái qián de.
In order for practice speaking Chinese, I speak to myself.
Wèi le liàn xí jiǎng zhōng wén, wǒ duì zhe zì jǐ shuō huà.
The work efficiency in the organisation starts from oneself.
Tuán tǐ de gōng zuò xiào lǜ yào cóng zì jǐ zuò qǐ.
Tuán tǐ de gōng zuò xiào lǜ yào cóng běn shēn zuò qǐ.
Tuán tǐ de gōng zuò xiào lǜ yào cóng zì jǐ běn shēn zuò qǐ.
Notice that the last sentence above uses both the two terms together? It is also very commonly used by the Chinese to highlight the point of “oneself”.
自己 Ziji = Own / Possession
When making references to self-possession with the English word “own +_(noun)_“, 自己 Zìjǐ is used often with the word “的 de” after it, then followed by a noun. For such examples, do not use “本身 Běnshēn” because the word does not mean “own”.
自己 + 的 + Noun
The importance of “的 de” also expresses other forms of possession such as the use of ‘My _(noun)_’ and ‘Mine’. Read more about Possessive Determiners and Possessive Pronouns with “De 的”.
I hide in the room to do my own things.
Wǒ zhěng tiān duǒ zài fáng jiān lǐ, zuò zì jǐ de shì.
She returned to her own house. (Means the person may be staying in more than one place and now, she is returning to her original residence)
Tā huí zì jǐ de jiā qù.
You (plural) pack up your own stuff, tomorrow we are leaving here.
Nǐ men shōu shí yī xià zì jǐ de dōng xī, míng tiān wǒ men lí kāi zhè lǐ.
Your own homework, do it yourself. Do not ask someone to do for you.
Zì jǐ de gōng kè zì jǐ zuò, bù yào jiào bié rén bāng nǐ zuò.
Literally: All of us are our ‘own people’. Why be calculative? (Slang: Meaning from the same boat / same group / same association / same family)
Wǒ men dà jiā dōu shì zì jǐ rén, hé bì jì jiào?
The last sentence above is an exception (without the use of 的 de) as it is a Chinese slang frequently used among the Chinese themselves to denote familiarity. It is more difficult to express it in English with the exact sentence except for a literal translation and for you to get a feel of it.
本身 Benshen and 自己 Ziji = Itself
As you can read from the first set of examples above, 本身 Běnshēn and 自己 Zìjǐ are not only for people but also to express non-living things and concepts as “itself“.
The article itself is rich in content.
Zhè piān wén zhāng běn shēn nèi róng fēng fù.
The design of the house itself has many flaws.
Wū zi de shè jì běn shēn yǒu hěn duō quē diǎn.
Life itself is complicated, interesting and exciting.
Shēng huó běn shēn jiù shì fù zá, yǒu qù hé cì jī.
What are the characteristics of the 12 horoscope signs?
Shí’èr xīng zuò běn shēn de tè zhì shì shén me?
When the fruits are riped, they will drop down from the trees by themselves.
Shuǐ guǒ shú le, zì jǐ huì cóng shù shàng diào xià lái.
The balloon burst by itself.
Qì qiú zì jǐ pò le.
How can the table walk by itself?
Zhuō zǐ zì jǐ zěn me huì zǒu?
本人 Benren – Formal Word for Myself or Oneself
本人 | Běnrén is deemed as a more formal word for emphasising ‘oneself‘ or ‘myself‘ and not frequently heard in casual conversation. Some examples are situations where one is making a guarantee of something, reassurance or referring to someone of higher authority.
When one uses 本人 Běnrén, it gives individuality or perhaps, a feeling of isolation while trying to assert one’s point of view. It is best to avoid using this word for Chinese beginner level if you are not sure how to deploy it correctly.
When expressed in the wrong situation, it might create a sense of overestimation of oneself and can sound awkward. Imagine saying the sentence with 本人 Běnrén to your supervisor or boss, he might wonder who has a higher authority? You or him?
I, myself promise all of you not to deduct your salary.
Wǒ běn rén xiàng nǐ men bǎo zhèng, bù huì kòu chú nǐ men de xīn jīn.
The person who said all these is our boss.
Shuō zhè fān huà de rén, jiù shì wǒ men lǎo bǎn běn rén le.
The CEO personally promised to give me more opportunities to perform.
Zǒng cái běn rén dā yīng wǒ, huì duō gěi wǒ jī huì biǎo xiàn.
I adhere to my standpoint. Hence, I will not apologise to her.
Wǒ běn rén jiān chí wǒ de lì chǎng, suǒ yǐ wǒ bù huì xiàng tā dào qiàn.
Both parties have to arrive on the spot to sign in order for the registration process to be valid.
Shuāng fāng běn rén bì xū dào chǎng qiān zì, dēng jì liú chéng cái yǒu xiào.
Similar to the Chinese Reflexive Pronouns, the next post will show you the use of “Personally and Individually – 亲自 qin zi，亲手 qin shou，亲身 qin shen and 个人 ge ren“.