Printable Version
Pronunciation: mai-self Hear it!

Part of Speech: Pronoun

Meaning: Myself is from a family of words called 'reflexive pronouns', formed by combining the possessive pronouns like my, your, her with the reflexive word self. Oddly, the 3rd person masculine himself and plural themselves do not use the possessive his or their, which explains why some dialects correct this inconsistency by (mis)using hisself and theirselves.

Notes: Increasingly, speakers in the US are using myself to bail out of the "I or me?" trap: "Imelda and myself went shopping for sparkly red shoes." Incorrect. The only time to use a reflexive pronoun is when a subject noun identifies the meaning or referent of self: "Imelda went to shop for herself," is correct, where herself refers to "Imelda"; in other words, "Imelda went to shop for Imelda." In English the reflexive pronoun tends to go at the end of the sentence.

In Play: The ultimate solution to the "I or me?" trap is to drop everything before the word in question to figure out what you want to say. In "Imelda and myself went shopping," think "____ went shopping". Now the problem is easy to solve. "I went shopping," so "Imelda and I went shopping" is the way to go. "No one saw Imelda and me shopping" is correct for the same reason. (Read "Are You and I You and Me?" in the Dr. Goodword's Office for more on this subject.)

Word History: The reflexive pronoun in English is used to show action by the subject of the sentence, so it can never be the subject of a sentence itself. You can, however, also use these forms as emphatic pronouns, for which the 'no-subject' rule does not apply: "I myself didn't actually see Bill," simply emphasizes I. Again: "He himself doesn't eat caviar, but he serves it at parties." In fact, it sometimes appears, sarcastically, alone in the subject: "Well! Herself seems to have eaten all the caviar!" (Thanks to Bob Wallace of Atlanta, Georgia, for suggesting today's grammar lesson all by himself.)

Dr. Goodword,

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