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Me, Myself & I

Blog

This is where I write about what interests me.

Me, Myself & I

James Stratford

I’ve noticed more and more people using the words myself, yourself, themselves, himself etc. instead of me, you, them, him. It seems people think these are somehow posher versions of the same word. They aren’t. They are different and they are not interchangeable.

“I will send that over to yourself later today.”

A colleague of mine used to say this sentence again and again when I worked with him shortly after we both left uni a few years back. This friend was an intelligent guy—a nuclear physicist—but he kept doing this and it was incredibly grating to someone like me who loves languages.

Consider the following sentences:

I dress myself.

I dress me.

You love yourself a bit too much.

You love you a bit too much.

Do you love me?

Do you love myself?

It’s clear which one is correct in those pairings. What makes one feel right and the other feel wrong and how can you apply this to less obvious situations?

Words ending -self are reflexive pronouns. That means you use them when the action is being done to the person carrying out that action. For example:

I wash myself.

You feed yourself.

They dress themselves.

If the thing you are doing is being done to someone else, then you do not use this form of the pronoun.

“I will send that over to you later today.” That isn’t any less posh, but it is correct.

There are other times when you might choose to use these words. Myself is not solely a reflexive pronoun. For instance, you might say: “I, myself, delivered the letter.” This is for emphasis. If the I was taken from that sentence then it would read very poorly indeed.

You and I

This isn’t quite the same gripe, but it is perhaps even more common and even more incorrect.

“This could affect you and I.”

This is wholly wrong. Again, it seems that this usage of I is born out of a desire to sound proper or even posh.

To show just how silly this is, simply remove the ‘you and’.

“This could affect I.”

We can all see this is a very bad sentence.

The confusion arises because it’s not always wrong to say you and I per se. For instance:

“You and I both know you are lying.”

This is absolutely fine, because the you and I are the subjects of the sentence. If you don’t know what I mean, just replace the ‘you and I’ with ‘we’. If it makes sense, then you are doing it right. If it doesn’t sound right, try replacing the ‘you and I’ with ‘us’. If it sounds right, then you should use using you and me, not you and I.

“We both know you are lying.”

“This could affect we.”

We = you and I

Us = you and me

This isn’t being a grammar nazi. It’s a common mistake that is not going to be just accepted as modern usage rather than poor grammar any time soon.

…but I digress.