English language Etymology Grammar Linguistics Usage

Using ‘myself’ for ‘I’ or ‘me’

[Note: An updated post about “myself” and other “-self” words appeared on Aug. 27, 2018.]

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: It’s definitely not preferred. Some people probably think “myself” is more elegant than “me” in a sentence like that. If so, they’re misinformed. The use of “myself” here is not incorrect, but there’s no reason to avoid “me.”

Language authorities today accept the wider use of “myself” in place of “I” or “me,” but some traditionalists still insist that “myself” should only be used for emphasis (“I made it myself”) or to refer to a subject already named (“He beats up on himself”).

In addition, good writers often use “myself” or “himself” or “herself” deep into a sentence when the ordinary pronoun would almost seem to get lost. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Here at Grammarphobia, we prefer to use “myself” (and the other reflexive pronouns, “herself,” “themselves,” etc.) primarily in those traditional ways, not to replace ordinary pronouns (“I/me,” “she/her,” “they/them,” “he/him,” and so on) for no good reason.

In short, you can’t go wrong if you follow this simple rule: if you can just as well substitute an ordinary pronoun, then don’t use a “-self” word.

We suspect that some people rely on “myself” because they’ve forgotten—or never learned—how to use “I” and “me.” Faced with the decision (“I” or “me”?), they resort to “myself” as a fallback position.

But as we said, this isn’t a grammatical mistake, just perhaps a stylistic choice, and one that may not be preferable.