GrammarPhile Blog

Grammar Questions

Posted by Conni Eversull   May 17, 2011 5:30:00 AM

More questions from our readers and answers by our Grammar Experts.

Question:  Me, Myself and I -- Please tell me when (under what circumstances) do you use which of these first person pronouns.

Answer:  The three pronouns are indeed first-person. They differ in that "me" is objective (receives action), 'my' is possessive, and 'I' is subjective (initiates action).

While it is not all that uncommon to hear someone say "John and myself went to the movies," it is DEAD WRONG. The sentence requires the subjective pronoun 'I' there. It is an easy test to leave off the third person and see how it sounds to the ear: "Myself went to the movies." Sounds bad, right? So you know it is wrong. "John and I went to the movies" is correct.

Another all too common mistake is using 'myself' for the non-reflexive form of the pronoun. "Reflexive" means something you do to or with yourself. For example, a person might say, "Mary gave Joan and myself a wink as she accepted the prize." This is very wrong. I am the only one who can give myself something. If someone else is doing the giving, and I am receiving, they are giving to 'me' and not to 'myself.' It should be "Mary gave Joan and me a wink..."

An extension of this is the use of 'yourself.' It is common, especially here in New England, for someone to reply, when asked "How are you?" with "Fine, and yourself?" This again is dead wrong. I cannot ask how 'yourself' is feeling, but I can ask how 'you' are feeling. So the correct reply is, "Fine, and you?"

And finally, perhaps the most common mistake is to use the subjective 'I' where the objective 'me' is needed: She gave Joan and I her best smile as he accepted the award. No, the pronoun here should be 'me' as being the object of the verb 'gave.'

  • Correct: Joan and I went to the movies.
  • Correct: Joan gave Harry and me the money.
  • Correct: I could have kicked myself for the way I treated Joan.
  • Correct: I had to laugh at myself when I found out how wrong I was.

Question:  I often have to write measurements of objects at the end of a sentence. Does the period go inside or outside the inch mark? Because it's not really a quotation mark in this case, and I am definitely always at a loss about the correct format. 12". or 12." Neither looks exactly right!

Answer:  When using a foot mark or an inch mark, put the mark INSIDE the closing period. And make sure the marks are straight, never curly (or 'smart').

Phil is considered to be tall, at 6'9".

Now here's a piece of trivia: In a Microsoft Word document, Word tends to make those marks curly. That's because of a setting in the preferences area. You can make Word's curly inch or foot mark straight by hitting a control-Z immediately after inserting the mark itself. That's because the control-z (the undo command) undoes the behind-the-scenes command to make the mark curly. Try it!

Question: Most grammar books tell us that "recently" can be used in simple past tense or present perfect tense. How about "in recent weeks/months/years"? Can it only be used in present perfect tense?

Answer:  This is perfectly fine: "In recent weeks, the mayor went fishing more often than ever before." We cannot find any rule restricting "recent" to present perfect tense.

Question:  Please read the following excerpt: One day, Romeo, the son of the Montagues, saw Juliet, the beautiful daughter of the Capulets, at a party. Immediately, he fell madly in love with her. However, when Romeo learned that Juliet was a Capulet and therefore his enemy, he wished that it had not been true. Is it more correct to say, "...when Romeo had learned that Juliet was a Capulet and therefore his enemy, he wished that it were not true"? Thanks for your help.

Answer:  Yes, the subjunctive mood in your example is quite good and appropriate. But remove the 'had' in your statement after "But when Romeo" because you need the simple past tense there.


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Topics: quotation marks, past tense, present perfect tense, first-person pronouns

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