The Grammar Belle

Spiffing y'all up, one typo at a time

I’m standing here beside myself.

Hey, y’all.

God gave us three different first-person pronouns to use in English: me, myself, I. Please feel free to use them all! But understand that there are rules about when, where, and how to use them. (I don’t have 10 commandments or anything like that. Let’s save those for the biggies like coveting and stealing. This is just grammar, y’all.)

I. The Golden Rule: Thou shalt not use them interchangeably. Each has its own role to play.

“Me,” “myself,” and “I” aren’t triplets, running around the set of a TV sitcom standing in each other’s place trying to trick their friends. Think of them like cousins—related but easily distinguished from one another.

“I” does the action: I am writing this blog.
“Me” receives the action: You make me so happy when you read my blog.
“Myself” has its own special function; it receives the action ONLY when “I” is the subject. It’s a reflexive pronoun. That means the subject is looking in the mirror and seeing the action reflected back:

It's a reflexive pronoun, y'all. (Special thanks to my favorite art guy for the illustration.)

It’s a reflexive pronoun, y’all. (Special thanks to my favorite art guy for the illustration.)

That goes for “myself” and all the other reflexive pronouns (yourself, herself, himself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves). They can ONLY be used when the subject of the sentence (whoever is doing the action) and the object of the sentence (whoever is receiving the action) are the SAME.

II. Thou shalt not ask another person to do something to “myself.” Only I can do it to myself, you to yourself, he to himself . . . . You can’t give Bob or myself a call if you need anything. I have called myself and left a message to remind myself to pick up milk on the way home. But I can’t give yourself a call, so please quit asking me to.

III. Thou shalt not have “myself” do anything. I can do it. Myself cannot. Pam and myself are NOT coming to the party. Myself wasn’t invited. (Keep whatever you’re doing to yourself at home, please.)

IV. Thou shalt not ask others to give “myself” anything. I have given myself a headache trying to figure out how to explain this . . . .

Ready for a quiz? Please decide if “myself” is used correctly in these sentences. If not, please indicate the correct pronoun.

How'd you do?

How’d you do?

Bottom line: Only YOU can do it to YOURSELF. And I plum wore myself out writing this blog post.

11 comments on “I’m standing here beside myself.

  1. outlawmama
    February 27, 2013

    This is a good one. Myself and Adam are going to eat some apples and screw the history of mankind. It’s just not right. On a lot of levels.

    • The Grammar Belle
      February 27, 2013

      HA! I wasn’t feeling very funny with my examples today. Maybe I should edit this post and use yours instead. Thanks for stopping by! (Now get back to your novel, please.)

  2. fransiweinstein
    February 27, 2013

    Oh, this is a BIGGIE!! People murder these all the time. Good for you for taking it on. Go on girl! Wrestle it to the ground!! 🙂

    • The Grammar Belle
      February 27, 2013

      Thanks, Fransi! I’m afraid this is one topic that had the upper hand on me. Nothing brilliant came to me in the shower so . . . y’all got my best attempt! 🙂

  3. mamarific
    February 27, 2013

    I think you did a great job. This is a tricky one, it seems, for a lot of people, myself included! 😉

  4. Jon Smith
    February 27, 2013

    This one drives me crazy. I hear young people–30ish—use it inappropriately all the time. I just cringe every time I hear it. Thanks once again for being a light in this “dimmly lit” world.

  5. Diane
    February 27, 2013

    Dear Grammar Belle, is it correct to say, “the meeting will be held on next Tuesday” or “the meeting will be held next Tuesday”. Another example: “I will do that on tomorrow”, or “I will do it tomorrow”. The extraneous use of “on” bugs my Canadian ears. Am I wrong?

  6. juliepetroski
    March 6, 2013

    Thank you for continuing to help us not make others cringe with our grammar flaws. That’s why I’ve nominated you for the Super Sweet Blogger Award and linked to your blog. Get the details here:

  7. Pingback: A Year of Grammar Goodies (With Bonus Pop Quiz) | The Grammar Belle

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This entry was posted on February 27, 2013 by in Don't Make Me Beg, Grammar Dilemmas, Southernisms and tagged , , , , .

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