Russian pronouns “себя” and “сам”

Russian reflexive pronoun сам and себя

Today in our series “Russian for beginners” we continue to review some important Russian grammar points and dedicate today’s lesson to two Russian pronouns: сам and себя. We’ll cover the declension of this pronouns in different cases and give some examples sentences in order to help all Russian learners to master their use.

Read the lesson notes and listen to the audio recording which contains all today’s examples.

Download the audio file of this lesson

Russian reflexive pronoun себя means ‘self’, and as the reflexive possessive pronoun свой is used to refer back to the subject of the sentence.

But let’s start from reviewing how it changes in different cases (себя doesn’t change in gender and number).

Genitive себя
Dative себе́
Accusative себя́
Instrumental собо́й
Prepositional себе́

Translated from English, себя can mean ‘myself’, ‘yourself’, ‘themselves’ etc.

Я купи́л себе́ но́вые боти́нки. – I bought new shoes for myself.

Поду́май о себе́! – Think about yourself!

Она́ ду́мает то́лько о себе́. – She thinks only about herself.

Он горди́тся собо́й. – He is proud of himself.

Мы стро́им себе́ дом. – We are building a house for ourselves.

Very often in Russian the reflexive pronoun себя is used instead of personal pronouns:

Вы себе́ так здоро́вье испо́ртите. – You will ruin your health this way.

Я возьму́ с собо́й большо́й чемода́н. – I’ll take a big suitcase with me.

Сам is the emphatic definite pronoun. Russians use it to emphasize the subject which is performing an action. Сам changes in gender, number and cases as follows:

masculine feminine neuter plural
Nominative сам сама́ само́ са́ми
Genitive самого́ само́й самого́ сами́х
Dative самому́ само́й самому́ сами́м
Accusative самого́ саму́ самого́ сами́х
Instrumental сами́м само́й сами́м сами́ми
Prepositional само́м само́й само́м сами́х
Russian Pod 101

Ты сам по́нял, что сказа́л? – Did you understand yourself what you said?
(masculine, Nominative)

Я сама́ всё сде́лаю. – I’ll do everything myself.
(feminine, Nominative)

Э́то авто́граф самого́ президе́нта. – This is the autograph of the president himself.
(masculine, Genitive)

Сам very often comes along with себя:

Я сам себя́ не слы́шу. – I don’t hear myself.
(себя́ – masculine, Accusative)

Они́ са́ми себе́ испо́ртили вечери́нку. – They ruined their party by themselves.
(себе́ – plural, Dative)

Она́ разгова́ривает сама́ с собо́й. – She is talking to herself.
(собо́й – feminine, Instrumental)

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5 comments on “Russian pronouns “себя” and “сам”

    • Everyday Russian says:

      Hello Isabel,
      We are here to help, but your question is not clear. Could you please explain what you mean by ‘separate the words’?

  1. How do you write this word “Поду́май” or “Подумай” or this one?
    “купил” or “купил “?

    Thank you

    • Everyday Russian says:

      In Russian every word carries an accent, so the mark you see on top of a letter is where the accent falls. Accentuated letters (can be only vowels) are pronounced with more intensity and don’t change their original sound in pronunciation.

      In writing accents are never specified, but they are specified here to help you learn the correct pronunciation of the word. So to answer your question, the correct way to write is “Подумай” and “купил”.

      To learn more about the accentuation we recommend to visit this lesson:

      I hope it helps. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask.

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