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Prose Parade
Grammar and writing basics

-self, -selves

Why do people use words like myself, yourself, etc. when they mean I/me or you? Do they think it’s more elegant or even self-effacing? Well, they’re wrong, and they’re annoying me.

So, here’s the rule.

These words are called reflexive pronouns because they reflect on or refer to another word in the sentence that is directly related.

For example, “Susan thought highly of herself.”

See? “Herself” refers to Susan. Why she thinks highly of herself is another matter entirely.

The one that really yanks my chain is “myself.”

Wrong: Keep this just between you and myself.

Oh, for heaven’s sake, what’s wrong with “me”? In fact, that’s the right word. “Myself” doesn’t refer to anything. (And by the way, using “I” in that sentence is wrong too.)

Right: Keep this between you and me.

That’s elegant, not at all self-promoting and correct.

Or how about: Myself and John are going to the movies.


Right: John and I are going to the movies.

Again, simple, elegant and correct.

And just because I didn’t give examples of himself, itself, ourselves, themselves doesn’t mean the rule doesn’t apply. It does.

« Transitions – Verbs and Plurals »

November 21, 2010 um 1:46 pm
Word Use/Write It Right
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