Someone in my house, I won’t give away names, likes to use the pronoun “myself” as a subject. For example, if I ask, “Who was at the meeting?”, he’ll say “Henry, Patrick, and myself.”
This reply always makes me twitch. Although I suspect he’s using myself this way because it’s sounds formal or proper, my Word Nerd intuition tells me it’s grammatically incorrect. I’ve finally done the research to figure it out.
Some tips on reflexive pronouns
Reflexive pronouns end with -self (e.g. myself, yourself, itself). There are, according to my reference manual Grammatically Correct by Anne Stilman, only three situations when we should use reflexive pronouns:
1) When the subject and the object of a sentence are the same and reflect each other:
- You take yourself too seriously. (subject = you, object of the verb take = yourself)
- He spoke critically of himself (subject = he; object = himself)
- The radio turned itself off. (subject = radio; object of turned = itself)
2) When you need to clarify that the subject did something alone or without help:
- She did all the laundry herself.
- I can’t line the fields by myself.
- Can’t you talk to him yourself?
3) When the pronoun emphasizes another word. (Then it has the fancy title of “intensive pronoun”)
- I myself would never do that at work.
- Patrick himself has no idea where he left his phone.
- I insist on speaking to the doctor himself.
So, when I ask, “Who was at the meeting?”, the proper answer would be, “Henry, Patrick, and I.”
Word Nerd Workout
Choose the correct word for each sentence below:
- Stacey and (I/myself) went to the movies on Saturday.
- The doctor spoke directly to Bill and (me/myself).
- People tell me I take (me/myself) too seriously.
Thanks for getting nerdy with me.