The Grammarphobia Blog

Me, myself, and I

Q: I wonder about “myself.” It seems to me to be a pretentious way of not saying “me,” as in “thank you for having my wife and myself on your program.” Is it proper, preferred, or pretentious?

A: Using “myself” instead of “me” isn’t just pretentious. It’s bad grammar. “Myself” is heard a lot these days because people have forgotten how to use “I” and “me.” Faced with the decision (“I” or “me”?), they resort to “myself” as a fallback position.

As a general rule, “myself” (and the other reflexive pronouns, “herself,” “themselves,” etc.) should not be used to replace an ordinary pronoun like “I/me” (or in the case of the other pronouns “she/her,” “they/them,” “he/him,” and so on). A good rule to follow is that if you can substitute an ordinary pronoun, then don’t use a “-self” word.

There are only two legitimate reasons for resorting to a “-self” word:

(1) For emphasis. (“I made it myself.”)

(2) To refer to a subject already named. (“He beats up on himself.”)

That said, however, people often use “myself” or “himself” or “herself” deep into a sentence when the ordinary pronoun would almost seem to get lost. I wouldn’t call such a usage a misuse, or a grammatical error, just perhaps a stylistic issue. Hope that helps.