The Grammarphobia Blog

Self denial

Q: It’s chalk screeching on a blackboard when I hear people, especially TV people, using “I” as an object. But I’m confused as to when “myself” should be used instead of “me.” Sometimes “myself” just feels more comfortable. Your views?

A: We’ve written about “myself” several times on our blog, most recently in 2018. And Pat has written about it in the new fourth edition of Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English.

Here’s the section on “myself” from the updated and expanded Woe Is I, which came out a few weeks ago:

SELF DENIAL

In the contest between I and me, the winner is often myself. That’s because people who can’t decide between I and me often choose myself instead. They say things like Jack and myself were married yesterday. (Better: Jack and I.) Or: The project made money for Reynaldo and myself. (Better: for Reynaldo and me.) You’ve probably done it yourself.

Well, it’s not grammatically wrong, but I don’t recommend this self-promotion. Ideally, myself and the rest of the self-ish crew (yourself, himself, herself, etc.) shouldn’t take the place of the ordinary pronouns I and me, he and him, she and her, and so on. They’re better used for two principal purposes:

• To emphasize. I made the cake myself. Love itself is a riddle. The detective himself was the murderer. (The emphasis could be left out, and the sentence would still make sense.)

• To refer back to the subject. She hates herself. And you call yourself a plumber! They consider themselves lucky to be alive. The problem practically solved itself.

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