Me, myself, and I

One of my wonderful readers asked, “Can you explain why my boss corrects the word ‘myself’ in the following sentence?”

“Please send your questions to Joe or myself.”

I am delighted to explain this common error! There are several similar words that end in “self” or “selves”: myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves. These words act as reflexives―they reflect on another noun or pronoun in the sentence. By definition, then, a reflexive MUST refer to another noun or pronoun.

  • “A kleptomaniac is a person who helps himself because he can’t help himself.”
    (Henry Morgan)
  • “Good breeding consists of concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person.”
    (Mark Twain)

The reflexive has two purposes:

  • It can intensify or emphasize an antecedent (the noun or pronoun that precedes it): I myself  am confused. (Some editors balk at this construction, believing that it is redundant. They prefer “I, too, am confused.”)
  • It can direct the action of the verb back to the subject: John has satisfied himself that my numbers are correct.

“Myself” and other words that end in “self” or “selves” cannot stand alone.

I hope you now see what was wrong with the sentence “Please send your questions to Joe or myself.” “Myself” does not reflect on or intensify another word in that sentence. Replace it with the word “me”: “Please send your questions to Joe or me.”

Here’s another example: “He said he sent it to yourself.” Correct it to “He said he sent it to you.” A correct use of “yourself” is: “You can delete the original user and create a new access for yourself.”

Test your knowledge of reflexives by taking this one-question quiz:

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