Grammar: Me, Myself, and I

Posted December 13, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Grammar Explanations, Self-Editing, Writing

Well, it’s just me, myself, and I sitting here at the computer, typing away. For myself, I love working with my computer, doing research, writing posts, editing books, and more.

There’s the shibboleth that using I myself is redundant. It’s not. It simply emphasizes the distinction between self and others” (Harbeck). The biggest problem with using myself — besides the grammar police — is that people tend to see it as the writer or speaker being pompous or snobbish.

All pronouns, there are situations in which one is preferred over the other.

The Real Problem Comes With Me and I

Many people confuse the object me with the subject I, especially when used in conjunction with another pronoun or someone’s name. We were taught in school to always use and I when speaking of someone in addition to oneself. Only. That doesn’t work.

Marie and me are going on vacation next week gets corrected to Marie and I are going on vacation next week, and it is correct. It happens often enough and we begin to think we should never use “Marie” and me. Ever. Except that Maria and I are the subject of the sentence.

If …and me were the object of a sentence, one might say Mom told Marie and me to get ready for school.

The Easy Method of Determining Me versus I

In spite of loving editing, I do hate certain aspects of grammar and figuring out what the object is of a sentence is one of them. The easiest method I’ve found is to try them both out alone in a sentence. It will quickly tell you which fits better.

Jamie and I were off to school that morning. I was off to school that morning.

Me was off to school that morning.

If the kids and I pack for Disneyland tomorrow… I pack for Disneyland tomorrow…

Me pack for Disneyland tomorrow…

Just between you and me, I think Mary is seeing someone else. Because “between” must be followed by a plural, substitute we or us.


Just between us, I think Mary is seeing someone else.

Just between we, I think Mary is seeing someone else.

Me and the kids are heading out, honey. Me am heading out, honey.

Me is heading out, honey.

I am heading out, honey.

There’s a reason why the plural subject begins this phrase: the kids and I. It does make a colloquial kind of sense. Just something to keep in mind when doing dialogue.

Yeah, buddy, you and me are gonna go a round. Never use a subject pronoun and object pronoun together.


…me is gonna go a round.

…me am gonna go a round.

…I am gonna go a round.

See the colloquial comment above.

More on the Subject of Me, Myself, & I

There’s an interesting analysis of myself versus me by Arnold Zwicky at the Language Log, and James Harbeck posted a useful one on “Myself, I don’t see a problem“. Bryan A. Garner’s “LawProse Lesson #174: Me, Myself, and I” is handy too.

Grammar Explanations is…

…an evolving list of the structural rules and principles that determines where words are placed in phrases or sentences as well as how the language is spoken. Sometimes I run across an example that helps explain better or another “also known as”. Heck, there’s always a better way to explain it, so if it makes quicker and/or better sense, I would appreciate suggestions and comments from anyone… Are there areas of grammar with which you struggle? If you’d like to track it, bookmark this page and consider sharing this Grammar Explanation with friends by tweeting it.

Me, Myself, and I
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; James Harbeck; Arnold Zwicky
me myself I

Letters sign stating Satisfy Me

Image is Rainer Halama’s own work [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Work, “Satisfy Me”, is by Monica Bonvicini.


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Image by Irving Berlin is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Irving Berlin’s sheet music for “All By Myself”.


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Image, courtesy of Tlusfa, is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Sign language for the letter “I”.

Part of Grammar:
Pronoun, first person singular in the objective case Reflexive Pronoun in first person singular (also check out the Intensive Pronoun)

In general, don’t use myself unless you have already used I or me OR you’re confused as to whether you should use me or I.

Pronoun, first person singular in the subjective case
Refers to the person that the action of a verb is being done to, or to whom a preposition refers


Used by a speaker to refer to himself or herself as the object of a verb or preposition

  • Used after the verb to be and after than or as
  • [North American; informal] To or for myself

[Informal] Used in exclamations

[Reflexive] Used by a speaker to refer to him- or herself as the object of a verb or preposition when he or she is the subject of the clause

[Emphatic ] I or me personally (used to emphasize the speaker)

[Literary term] I

Refers to the person performing the action of a verb


Used by a speaker to refer to himself or herself
Examples:
Do you understand me?

Wait for me!

Hi, it’s me.

Hey! You have more than me.

I’ve got me a job.

Dear me!

Silly me!

It’s not the proper style for someone like me.

I was hoping Ed would go to the movies with me, but in the end, I went by myself.

I was saving that for myself!

I hurt myself by accident.

I strolled around, muttering to myself.

I myself am unsure how this problem should be handled.

I wrote it myself.

Myself presented to him a bronze sword.

It was done by myself.

I did it to myself.

I’m not myself today.

It’s not the proper style for someone such as myself.

James and myself were asked to step in.

Accept me for what I am.

I’m going to the store, Mary.

James and I were asked to step in.

History of the Word:
Old English , accusative and dative of I, is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch mij, the German mir (dative), from an Indo-European root shared by the Latin me, the Greek (e)me, and the Sanskrit Old English me self, from me + self (used adjectivally).

The change from me to my occurred in Middle English.

Old English, of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch ik and German ich, from an Indo-European root shared by the Latin ego and the Greek egō.

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