How to Use "Myself" and Other Reflexive Pronouns
Today's topic is how to use the word myself.
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Legal Lad here, filling in again for Grammar Girl. The poor girl is still sick. She asked me to thank everyone who has sent "get well" messages. She appreciates them a lot.
How to Use Myself
Today's topic is how to use the word myself. Grammar Girl says that how to use myself is among the top 10 or 20 questions that people send in to the show. Here's an example:
Hi, Grammar Girl. This is Chuck Tomasi, your interim Grammar Guy from ChuckChat.com, home of podcasts too numerous to mention. I hear and see examples of the misuse of the word myself all the time. For example, an e-mail went out from HR like this, “Please contact Squiggly, Aardvark, or myself with questions.” Could you please help listeners know when the word myself is appropriate and when to use a more appropriate word? Thanks!
Excellent, Chuck! Let's dissect what's wrong with that sentence: "Please contact Squiggly, Aardvark, or myself with questions." The simplest way to think of it is like this: How would you say the sentence without Squiggly and the aardvark? Then it usually becomes obvious! You would say, “Please contact me with questions,” not, “Please contact myself with questions.” So when you add in Squiggly and the aardvark, that doesn't change anything. It's still correct to say, “Please contact Squiggly, aardvark, or me with questions.”
What Are Reflexive Pronouns?
Digging into the topic a little deeper, myself is what's called a reflexive pronoun. That can be hard to remember, but just think about looking into a mirror and seeing your reflection. You'd say, “I see myself in the mirror.” You see your reflection, and myself is a reflexive pronoun.
Other reflexive pronouns include himself, herself, yourself, itself, and themselves. A reflexive pronoun is always the object of a sentence; it can never be the subject. Grammar Girl has talked about it before, but a subject is the one doing something in a sentence, and the object is the one having something done to it. If I step on Squiggly, I am the subject and Squiggly is the object.
You would never say, “Myself stepped on Squiggly,” so you would also never say, “Aardvark and myself stepped on Squiggly.”
Another case where it is correct to use myself is when you are both the subject and the object of a sentence. For example, “I see myself playing marimbas,” or, “I'm going to treat myself to a mud bath.” In both of these cases you are the object of your own action, so myself is the right word to use.