Me or Myself? (Grammar Lesson)

by Craig Shrives
The Quick Answer
You can only use the word "myself" if you've used the word "I" in your sentence. For example:
  • I pricked myself with a pin.
  • I saw it myself.
Do not use "myself" because you think it sounds more formal or polite. For example:
  • Please contact myself if you have any questions.
me or myself

Me or Myself?

The word "myself" is a pronoun. It can be either an emphatic pronoun or reflexive pronoun. If you're new to these terms, don't worry. They're easier to understand than you might think. For example:
  • I did it myself.
  • (When "myself" is used for emphasis, it is known as an emphatic pronoun.)
  • I saw myself in the mirror.
  • (When "myself" is used to show "you" doing something to "yourself," it is known as a reflexive pronoun.)
You cannot use "myself" for any other reason. You cannot use it because it sounds better than "me." You cannot use it when someone other than "you" is doing something to "you." For example:
  • He raised the issue with myself.
  • Please send any complaints to your line manager or myself.
Here's the bottom line:

Emphatic and Reflexive Pronouns

"Myself," "yourself," "herself," "himself," "itself," "ourselves," "yourselves," and "themselves" are all pronouns. They can be either emphatic pronouns or reflexive pronouns.

Emphatic Pronouns

When used for emphasis, they are called emphatic pronouns.
  • She will do it herself.
  • (The waiter won't do it. Her husband won't do it. Her son won't do it. SHE will do it.)
  • I heard the lie myself.
  • The cat opened the door itself.
  • (Note: It's not always about people.)
You can test if it's an emphatic pronoun by removing it completely and seeing if you get the same effect by emphasizing the thing you're trying to emphasize with your voice (shown below in bold and italics).
  • "SHE" will do it.
  • "I" heard the lie.
  • "THE CAT" opened the door.

Reflexive Pronouns

In most sentences, somebody does something to someone else. For example:
  • I like him.
  • He spoke to her.
  • She thumped him.
  • The dog bit her.
  • (Note: It's not always about people.)
However, sometimes people do things to themselves, and this is when you can use "myself," "yourself," "herself," "himself," "itself," "ourselves," "yourselves," and "themselves" as reflexive pronouns. For example:
  • I like myself.
  • He spoke to himself.
  • She thumped herself.
  • The dog bit itself.
Some real examples:
  • I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.
  • I cannot bring myself to do it.

Why Should I Care about Emphatic and Reflexive Pronouns?

Here is a common mistake related to "me" and "myself."

Don't Use "Myself" to Be Polite or Formal

A common mistake is using a reflexive pronoun when the subject of the verb is not doing something to itself. For example:
  • I did it to myself.
  • He did it to myself.
  • He did it to himself.
Here are some more examples featuring "I," "me," and "myself."
  • He insulted the doctor and I.
  • (This is no different to saying "He insulted I." It is wrong because "I" cannot be the direct object of a verb. )
  • He insulted the doctor and me.
  • (This is correct, but it grates on some people's ears, which forces them to use the one of the wrong versions. Of note, native English speakers prefer the word order "me and the doctor" as opposed to "the doctor and me." This contributes to writers opting for one of the wrong versions.)
  • He insulted the doctor and myself.
  • (This is wrong, but it sounds okay to many.)
Let's do one more example:
  • Please pass any comments to the director or myself.
  • Please pass any comments to the director or me.
  • (This correct version feels too uncomfortable for many.)
  • Please pass any comments to me or the director.
  • (This word order sounds better.)
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

Between you and I or me? Emphatic pronouns Reflexive pronouns