We all want to sound intelligent when we’re speaking or writing, and that means we genuinely try to adhere to standard grammar rules.
However, sometimes, we try a little too hard. We try so hard to sound right that we end up getting it very wrong.
One of the most common mistakes is to use I or myself in a place where a simple me is called for.
(X indicates a grammatically incorrect example sentence.)
When should I, me, and myself be used?
I is a subject pronoun, meaning it’s usually placed before the verb when it’s the subject of a sentence or phrase. Me is an object pronoun, meaning goes after the verb or as what is receiving an action, such as in a prepositional phrase. Myself is a reflexive pronoun, used when I am doing something to my own person.
I made a sandwich for Alan.
Alan made a sandwich for me.
I made a sandwich for myself.
When does I get confused for me?
In most cases, we’re pretty good at keeping I and me straight. In the above examples, you’re probably not tempted to say, “Alan made a sandwich for I.” But many people get mixed up when you’re talking about more than one person.
Alan made a sandwich for Judy and me.
The temptation in this case is to change the me to I.
X Alan made a sandwich for Judy and I.
If you ever get confused because of a complicated sentence, remove the other person (in this case, Judy) and see if it still makes sense.
X Alan made a sandwich for I.
When does myself get switched in for me?
There are two main reasons people throw in myself when it’s not needed. The first reason is the same as above for I. Me just doesn’t sound proper and strong enough.
X Alan made a sandwich for Judy and myself.
X Alan made a sandwich for myself.
And removing the other person doesn’t help clarify in this case because the sentence doesn’t sound unnatural enough to our ears with just myself.
That brings us to the second reason people make this mistake. They use myself for emphasis. And that’s actually related to one of the true uses of myself.
I myself never cook for Alan, but Judy does all the time.
However, when used for emphasis myself has to be preceded by I. It’s not an emphasized form of me.
X To myself, the price seems a little high.
X If you want to know the truth, just ask Judy or myself.
Rebecca Miller is a professional copyeditor and general fan of all things having to do with the written word and the English language.
You can check out her website at Oakdale Editing or connect through Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Email.
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Rebecca has a passion for helping you fill the world with great literature and making sure said literature doesn't get passed over for the lack of a little editing.