pesky pronouns: me myself I

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Hannah, a friend and colleague, popped up on Skype the other day, with a grammatical question.

Is it best to say: ‘If you have further questions please do not hesitate to contact Robert or I’ or ‘…Robert or myself’?

Well. Neither is correct. Hannah should write:

‘If you have any more questions, please contact Robert or me.’

Put aside my substitution of ‘more’ for ‘further’, and my deletion of  ‘do not hesitate’ for a moment, and let’s focus on the pesky pronoun in this sentence.

I won’t even get into the details of subjects and objects, possessive and reflexive pronouns…

Here’s the rule.

If you’re not sure which pronoun to use (me, myself, I), simply take away any other participants in the clause or phrase.

Here, you would get rid of Robert.

‘If you have any more questions, please contact … me.’

Not ‘I’. Not ‘myself’. It’s ‘me’. It’s easy.

Look at some other examples:

Hannah and [me/myself/I] discussed this problem on Skype.

When you take Hannah out of the sentence you can see that the correct pronoun is ‘I’.

                After we’d made many phone calls, the promoter sent Pauline and [me/myself/I] an 80% refund.

The correct pronoun is ‘me’.


There’s another little refinement to consider. Look at this example:

[Me/myself/I] and my teammates have been training every day.

The correct pronoun to use is ‘I’. But you should show your good manners by putting your teammates first.

                My teammates and I have been training every day.

None of these examples uses ‘myself’. Why have ‘myself’ and ‘yourself’ become so pervasive? My theory is that many people are unsure of when to use ‘I’ and ‘me’, and so opt for what is perceived to be a more formal word – ‘myself’. Misuse of ‘myself’ has crept into written English, and thence into spoken English. This use is now so endemic that it has begun to sound ‘normal’. But no amount of misuse will make using the reflexive pronoun correct in the examples above.

I’ll write more about reflexive pronouns another time.

(With thanks to Hannah and Joan Armatrading :-))

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