April 20, 2012

Reflexive Adjective

Reflexive adjectives are adjectives which refer to a noun or noun phrase mentioned in the same clause.

Examples in English

In English, reflexive possessive adjectives are not necessarily distinct from non-reflexive possessive adjectives.

“He was playing with his friends” – In this sentence, we assume that “his” refers to “he”, as in “David was playing with David’s friends”. However, it could refer to another person: “David was playing with Robert’s friends”.

In English, reflexivity can be made explicit by adding words such as “own”:

“He was playing with his own friends”

Reflexive Adjectives in Hindi

In Hindi, reflexive possessive adjectives are distinct from non-reflexive possessive adjectives. If a possessive adjective refers to the subject of a clause, then the Hindi reflexive adjective अपना is used.


Contrast the following two sentences:

प्रकाश ने अपना खाना खाया – “Prakash ate his (own) food”

प्रकाश ने उसका खाना खाया – “Prakash ate his (someone else’s) food”

The former sentence uses the reflexive possessive adjective अपना “one’s own”, whereas the latter sentence uses the non-reflexive possessive adjective उसका. The former sentence therefore indicates that Prakash ate his very own food, whereas the latter implies that Prakash ate someone else’s food.

The translation of अपना into English will vary depending on it’s referent:

मैं अपनी किताब पढ़ रहा हूँ – “I am reading my book”

तुम अपनी किताब पढ़ रहे हो – “You are reading your book”

वह अपनी किताब पढ़ रहा है – “He is reading his book”

अपना cannot be used with the subject of a clause.

वह और उसकी बहिन यहाँ रहते हैं – “He and his sister live here.” उसकी is used since बहिन (“sister”) is also part of the subject of the sentence. If बहिन were not part of the subject, then अपना would have been used, as in वह अपनी बहिन से बात कर रहा था – “He was talking with his (own) sister”.

Emphatic Reflexive Possessive Adjectives

A non-reflexive possessive adjective can be combined with a reflexive possessive adjective for emphasis:

यह मेरा अपना घर है – “This is my very own house”


The possessive adjective used with imperatives will always be the reflexive possessive adjective, since the subject of imperative verbs is always “you” (singular or plural).

(तुम) अपनी किताब पढ़ लो