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Kristin Fracchia

ACT Challenge Question 2: Reflexive Pronouns – Explanation

Magoosh ACT Challenge Question

If you missed our Monday ACT Challenge Question post, here it is again. Scroll down for the answer and explanation to this grammar quandry.

ACT Challenge Question #2

The nickname “Mama Pop” was conferred on my aunt by fans of her famous soda shop. She herself, adopted the moniker, and, like a true mother to the community, embraced all of the associations that came along with it.

B. She herself
C. She, herself,
D. She,

Answer and Explanation


Many students who struggle with this question are thinking about the rules for appositives. As a reminder, an appositive is a noun or a noun phrase that renames or defines another noun, such as “My uncle, a master chef,” or “Maya Angelou, a Pulitzer Prize nominee,”. Appositives are often set off by commas. However, if the appositive is essential to either the meaning or the structure of a sentence, it should NOT be set off by commas.

But in this case, “herself” is not exactly an appositive, it is a reflexive pronoun acting as an intensifier. When a reflexive pronoun such as “herself” is used like this, it is not set off with commas. For example, “I myself wouldn’t buy that book.” This makes answer choice C incorrect. Answer choices A and D are also incorrect because they put a single comma between the subject and its verb, which should never happen. Be particularly careful with D. This could be an option if it didn’t have a comma after she (Afterall, the word “herself” is not really needed in this sentence, and it would be more concise to just say “she”) but the comma makes it wrong. So, once again, because reflexive pronouns acting as intensifiers are not set off by commas, the correct answer is B.


About Kristin Fracchia

Kristin makes sure Magoosh's blogs are chock-full of awesome, free resources for students preparing for standardized tests. With a PhD from UC Irvine and degrees in Education and English, she’s been working in education since 2004 and has helped students prepare for standardized tests, as well as college and graduate school admissions, since 2007. She enjoys the agonizing bliss of marathon running, backpacking, hot yoga, and esoteric knowledge.

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