reflexive pronouns


It bothers me to here people on the radio using "myself" when I think they should be using "me."

What is the correct usage of "myself instead of "me"?

asked Feb 02 '12 at 13:07 Cynthia Hernandez New member

3 answers


The reflexive "myself" is only grammatical when the pronoun or person it corefers to is in the same clause that the reflexive is in. For example, "John washed himself." is perfectly grammatical, because "John" and "himself" are in the same clause. *"John chose this shower when the other one wouldn't clean himself." is horrifingly bad, because the coreferant of John is in the complementizer phrase "when the other one wouldn't clean himself." Additionally, whatever the "-self" is referring to has to actually reflect the features found in the person or pronoun. "John washed himself" is fine, but *"John washed herself." is bad because it corefers to John, but John doesn't have the grammatical gender for feminine while "herself" does, so it crashes horribly. Likewise, you wouldn't say *"He hurts myself.", because "myself" corefers to 'he" when the features for "myself" don't match the feature structure for "he". So basically, use your intuition. If it sounds right, it probably is. I hope that helped a little bit.

link answered Feb 02 '12 at 19:39 Anna New member

So using "myself" in place of me without reference to a noun or pronoun in that sentence is incorrect? Cynthia HernandezFeb 03 '12 at 11:47

Exactly. The only way you can use reflexives is when whatever you're referring to is in the same clause as the reflexive "-self". You can say "me" and "my" in reference to yourself if you're talking about yourself in another clause, but not "myself". Does that help? It's also a good check to see if you have an embedded clause or not. If it sounds good to say "-self", then whatever you're referring to is in the same clause. AnnaFeb 03 '12 at 13:22

This isn't a prescriptivist grammar rule: even people who claim they're "bad" at English grammar can make this distinction. AnnaFeb 03 '12 at 13:23

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When the subject and the object of a sentence refer to the same person, reflexive pronoun should be used.

I love myself.  ("I love me" is wrong)  

He loves himself. (One person)

He loves him.  (He and him - two seperate persons) 

link comment answered Feb 04 '12 at 06:32 Z. A. Jazley Expert

I frequently hear phrases such as - "this was written by myself" or "this was written by Shelia and myself".  This seems to be the wrong use of "myself" that I hear the most.  Is that you are hearing Cynthia?  Which wasn't covered by either of the other answers.

link comment answered Feb 04 '12 at 18:03 Mercedes Lenort New member

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