Grammar

Grammar Tip: Forget You’ve Heard of ‘Myself’

Do yourself a favor: forget you’ve ever heard of the word ‘myself.’ Rest assured: I don’t make such a suggestion lightly.

I think the word myself is a perfectly acceptable word with worthwhile uses.

Unfortunately, it has become misused so often by people who don’t understand its function that it’s just time to put it to bed.

Why it’s being used incorrectly

It’s one of those words that sounds to some to be fancy and I think they insert it to make themselves sound more educated. When they do that, it usually has the opposite effect.

Here’s an example of it used as a subject:

My wife and myself went to the movies last night.

The easy way to check whether a pronoun in a compound subject is correct is to drop the other person and see how the pronoun describing you sounds alone. You wouldn’t say “Myself went to the movies last night.” (At least I hope you wouldn’t.)

You’d say I went to the movies, so the correct sentence would be:

My wife and I went to the movies last night.

Here’s an example of it used as an object:

Mom always took care of my brother and myself.

With the same test, this sentence fails, too. So the corrected sentence should say:

Mom always took care of my brother and me.

How to use it correctly

Myself is what’s called a reflexive pronoun: when you use it correctly, it reflects another instance of either a pronoun describing you.

I gave myself a day off after a long week.

In this sentence, it modifies the pronoun I and serves as an object of the action. It’s necessary because you want to specify who’s getting the day off, and in this case, it’s you, not a co-worker.

I took care of the problem myself.

In this sentence, it could be dropped altogether and the sentence would be fine: “I took care of the problem.” But adding myself, in this case, adds emphasis to demonstrate who took care of the problem. (In adding that emphasis, it also is often intended to complain to or about someone else who presumably could or should have taken that action but failed to do so.)

It’s a great word when it’s used correctly. When it isn’t, it’s a glaring error that can easily distract people from what you’re trying to communicate.

Sometimes, it’s so easy to avoid that. If you aren’t willing to take the effort, it might be best for you to stop using this word completely and save yourself the grief.

1 Comment

  1. Haven’t heard “myself” being misused. But I do hear “I” being used when “me” would be the correct word. For example: “The party was fun for my wife and I.” You’d never say: “Was fun for I.” I hear it wrong 99% of the time. Have they changed the rules?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.