Lately, I have been hearing a lot of misused reflexive pronouns and I guess the think that I find most bothersome is that the users are under the impression that they are being fancy and correct. I and myself are being used when a simple little old me fits perfectly. I worked with a woman who would routinely close her emails with the tagline: “Please feel free to contact myself with any questions.” She routinely instructed me to reach out to her “because that project is on Taylor and I’s plate.” We will overlook the ridiculous middle-management double-speak ‘plate’ analogy and focus on how uneducated she sounded. It is one thing when you write it, but when you actually speak it and hear your voice saying it and do not understand how clunky and wrong it sounds, that is another. Someone finally had to tell her that irregardless is not a word. Anyway, long story short; be mindful of the reflexive pronoun, someone could be silently judging your intelligence.
“A man’s grammar, like Caesar’s wife, should not only be pure, but above suspicion of impurity.”
― Edgar Allan Poe
Now, let’s get into it. A reflexive pronoun is a pronoun that is preceded by the noun, adjective, adverb or pronoun to which it refers (its antecedent) within the same clause. In generative grammar, a reflexive pronoun is an anaphor that must be bound by its antecedent. In some languages, there is a difference between reflexive and non-reflexive pronouns; but the exact conditions that determine whether or not something be bound are not yet well defined and depend on the language in question. It depends on the part of the sentence containing the pronoun.
In English, the function of a reflexive pronoun is among the meanings of the words myself, yourself, thyself, himself, herself, itself, oneself, ourselves, ourself (as majestic plural), yourselves, and themselves. In the statements “I see him” and “She sees you”, the objects are not the same persons as the subjects, and regular pronouns are used. However, when the person being seen is the same as the person who is seeing, the reflexive pronoun is used: “I see myself” or “She sees herself”.
Me vs Myself
Me, myself, and I may refer to the same person, but they are not interchangeable. Myself should be the one you hear the least, but it’s often used incorrectly in place of me.
Me is an object pronoun, which means that it refers to the person that the action of a verb is being done to, or to which a preposition refers.
- They want me to study more.
- Tell me a story.
- Between you and me, he’s right.
- Carol wants to meet with John and me tomorrow.
- The book was written entirely by me.
- Please call Hillary or me with any questions.
Myself is a reflexive or stressed pronoun, which means that, generally speaking, it should be used in conjunction with the subject pronoun I, not instead of the object pronoun me.
- I bought myself a car.
- I myself started the company.
- I did the laundry by myself.
- I feel like myself again.
- Tired of waiting, I just did it myself.
The Bottom Line
Myself can be used for stress, but most grammarians won’t allow it to be used alone – they reject constructions like “Carol wants to meet with John and myself” (correct: with John and me”) and “The book was written entirely by myself” (correct: by me personally).
Just remember that myself can be reflexive (I’m doing something to/for myself) or emphatic (I myself). Otherwise, you probably want to use me.