Angela’s ABCs I, me and myself

I, me and myself

People often get confused between these three pronouns and I hope to give you a foolproof method of knowing which is right.

It helps to know that a noun is the part of speech that is used to name a person, place, thing, quality, feeling or action, and that a pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun.

The pronoun ‘I’

‘I’ is only used when you are referring to yourself in the subject of the sentence. In other words, you are the one taking the action: ‘I sang a song.’

So far, so simple, but what gets confusing is when you add another person to the subject of the sentence. A foolproof way to decide whether you should use me, myself, or I in combination with another person as the subject of the sentence, is to remove the other person for a moment and see what sounds right:

  • Susan and I sang a song.
  • Susan and myself sang a song.
  • Susan and me sang a song.

If you remove Susan, you now have a choice between ‘I sang a song.’ ‘Myself sang a song.’ or ‘Me sang a song.’ It’s clear the first one is correct.

I have a theory that confusion arises over ‘me’ because of the tendency to use it wrongly as follows: ‘Me and Susan are going out tonight.’ Parents, teachers and others correct this in exasperation saying, ‘No, it’s Susan and I…’ therefore leaving people with the impression that ‘me’ is generally wrong. It is wrong as the subject of a sentence, but totally right as the object as we’ll see below.

The pronoun ‘me’

‘Me’ should be used when someone else will perform the action either directly on you, or to, or for, you; in other words when you are the object of the sentence: ‘He kissed me.’

Again, confusion arises when you add another person to the object of the sentence:

  • Susan sang a song for Emily and myself.
  • Susan sang a song for Emily and me.
  • Susan sang a song for Emily and I.

In this example, someone is performing an action for you. If you remove Emily from the sentence for a moment, you’re bound to get the right answer. You would not say ‘Susan sang a song for myself.’ nor would you say ‘Susan sang a song for I.’ The right answer is: ‘Susan sang a song for Emily and me.’

People often make a mistake with the expression ‘between you and me’, again thinking that there is something wrong with the pronoun ‘me’. But if you say ‘between you and I’, you are getting it wrong. I think perhaps the only way is just to learn the correct construction.

The pronoun ‘myself’

‘Myself’ is a reflexive pronoun and can also be an intensive pronoun.

As a reflexive pronoun it expresses something you do to yourself:

  • Sometimes I like to pamper myself.
  • I said to myself, ‘I must get up early tomorrow.’
  • I bought myself an ice-cream as no one else wanted one.

As an intensive pronoun it emphasises that you, in fact, did or want to do something:

  • I myself gave over £500 to the charity.
  • I had heard so much about it that I decided to read the book myself.
  • I want to see South America for myself.

2 Comments on “Angela’s ABCs I, me and myself

  1. Thanks Angela, now all I need is for everyone I come into contact with to read this and to stop using ‘myself’ incorrectly – NZers take heed!

    • You could circulate it all round the university, perhaps, and suggest that people write in with their queries? Thanks for the comment, by the way.

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