Me, Myself & I: How and How NOT to Use Reflexive Pronouns
“Allow myself to introduce … myself.” — Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery
Greetings, friends and fellow Netizens. I’ve got something I’d like to talk to you about today. It’s the way many of you talk about, well, yourselves.
See, I get that when you were in grammar school, you were told that saying, “He and I” was always correct (it’s not, by the way, but that’s a subject for a different post) and that you were never supposed to say, “him and me.” Grammar trauma is a tough thing to get past.
So, when you got older and wanted to present yourselves in the smartest and best grammatical light possible, you took it a step further: “Please join John and myself for a webinar next Thursday.” Folks, I am here to tell you that this usage is categorically incorrect. That’s right: it’s wrong. 100%, totally, completely wrong.
Now, if you are one of the countless numbers of people (no matter who you are or where you work) who make this mistake, fear not, for it can be unlearned. Breaking a bad habit isn’t always easy, but it is always worth it. So, let’s get right down to the “whys” and the “hows” of all this pronoun pedantry, shall we?
Reflexive Pronouns: What are they and why do I need them?
Reflexive pronouns aren’t here to hurt you; they are your friends. Words like myself (also himself, herself, yourself, itself, and themselves) are reflexive pronouns, which are used when the subject and the object of a sentence are the same (eg. I — myself).
- “I decided to amuse my friends with some witty banter on Twitter.”
- “I decided to amuse myself with some witty banter on Twitter.”
In the second sentence, I am both the subject and the object, so I use myself — a reflexive pronoun — to, yes, reflect that.
Here’s where things get dicey (and yes, I’m looking at you, people who shall remain nameless). People — especially business people — tend to use reflexive pronouns by default, and that’s just plain (wait for it …) wrong.
- “Join these awesome engineers and myself for a robust discussion of single-pane-of-glass technology in which we’ll eat our own dog food.”
No. Just, no. My razzing of buzzwords aside, how do we know that this usage is wrong? The simplest test is to remove “these awesome engineers” from the sentence and say it again. Would you ever — EVER — say “Join myself for a robust discussion.” I’m betting not.
I’m hoping you’d say, “No way, Melissa! I’d say ‘join ME for a robust discussion!’” And if you did say that, you are correct! And there’s no change to that when you add the awesome engineers back in.
WRONG: Join Jim-Bob and myself for a beer at the Razzle-Dazzle Saloon!
RIGHT: Join Jim-Bob and me at the Razzle-Dazzle Saloon!
The world of reflexive pronouns, while it might feel different (and even a bit icky) from what you were taught by an English teacher who’d gone rogue, can be tricky, but it’s a world worth getting to know. If you’re ever unsure which to use, just remove all objects except yourself. If it feels weird to say “myself” when it’s just you, there’s a reason for that. Even in grammar, remember: simplest is nearly always best.
Until next time, keep calm and comma on.