GrammarPhile Blog

Me, Myself, and I

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Aug 31, 2010 4:30:00 AM

Me myself II know, I know. GrammarTip harps on the use of pronouns too much. But the trouble is, we keep hearing people who should know better - newscasters, politicians, celebrities - butchering them to a fare-thee-well. We ran these tips months ago, but it's summer vacation time, plus people keep making the same mistakes. So until the world gets it, we'll keep at it, hoping that someday all three of us--me, myself, and I--can live in pronoun peace.

IS IT I or IS IT ME: Linking up.
Guideline. Favor the subjective case form for pronouns that follow linking verbs, but don't force the issue in conversation.
  • It was they who initiated the idea of holding the water ski tournament in Alberta next year. (They is in the subjective case because it follows the linking verb was.)
  • It is we who must take the responsibility for the injuries we suffered when we jumped off Frye's Leap. (We is in the subjective case because it follows the linking verb is.)
  • If anyone can vouch for Talullah's dependability, it's me. (I is technically correct, but me is the natural choice in conversation and is considered acceptable in all but the most formal writing situations.)

MYSELF or ME. Beware of self-indulgence.
Confine your use of pronouns ending in -self to those situations in which the -self forms are appropriate. Don't fall victim to the misguided assumption that "myself" is a more elegant way of saying "I" or "me."
  • Sassafras and I would love to judge this year's slam-dunk contest. (There is no need for myself; I is the proper choice.)
  • We would like to invite Mortimer and you to travel with us next spring to Two Egg. (There is no need for yourself; you is the proper choice.)
  • Q: How are you? A: Fine, and you? (NEVER answer "Fine, and yourself?" It is less than substandard English. It is like answering, "Fine, and how is yourself?" And that sounds flakey.)

A closer look. There are two legitimate uses of pronouns that end in -self. One is for emphasis. The other is with reflexive verbs.
  • I myself will be driving the towboat for the slalom competition. (Following I with myself emphasizes that the speaker intends to take full responsibility for the driving.)
  • Matilda herself will write the acceptance speech. (No speechwriters need apply for the job.)

    Reflexive Verbs
  • The children amused themselves by barefoot skiing and by skiing backwards. (Themselves is the object of amused [a reflexive verb] and refers back to children.)
  • Lucius has a habit of causing injury to himself whenever he starts skiing from the beach. (Himself is the object of the preposition to, and refers back to Lucius.)
  • I nearly killed myself when I hit the wake at 75 mph. (Myself is the object of the verb killed and refers back to I.)

    Possible exception:
  • As for myself, the plans for the airplane trip are still up in the air. (Me is probably the better choice, but myself could be defended on the grounds that the writer or speaker wants to emphasize the first-person pronoun and has elected to omit me.)

Partial source: Grammar for Smart People by Barry Tarshis.

Subscribe to Email Updates

Sign up for our emails!

Sign Up

Search Our Blog

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all