Everyone is saying it, but that doesn’t make it right

Last month I wrote about one of my biggest grammar pet peeves—the increasingly common erroneous use of the first person pronoun “I” as the object of a sentence. I laid out the correct usage and linked to additional resources on the topic, but apparently I left readers wanting more. (That is, after all, the trick of the trade.)

Dwight Gordon of Arlington Community Federal Credit Union contacted me to express his disappointment in my failure to describe how the reflexive form of the first person pronoun is increasingly being mistreated by unwitting grammar felons (my words, not his). The error is simple to fix once you are aware of it. Children aren’t the only ones who repeat words they hear. Unfortunately, it ain’t cute when adults do it.

Reflexive pronouns are formed by adding the suffix “self” to a pronoun, e.g.: myself, yourself, himself, herself, ourselves, themselves, itself, and oneself. NB: “Hisself” is not a word.

Reflexive pronouns are usually the object of a sentence and refer back to the subject. Here are some examples:

  • I made myself dessert.
  • He fixed the brakes himself.
  • You might want to immerse yourself in exercise.

Intensive pronouns essentially are reflexive pronouns used to add emphasis to subjects, as in the sentence, “The queen herself has spoken.” In this example, “herself” can easily be removed from the sentence without affecting its meaning, which differentiates intensive from strictly reflexive pronouns.

According to Dwight, misuse of the reflexive pronoun is reaching epidemic proportions. I’m not convinced we’ve reached an epidemic yet, but I concur the problem is proliferating. Here’s an example of the misuse I often hear and even see in emails: “Respond to Karl or myself with any questions.” OUCH!

“Respond to Karl or me with any questions” is correct. As a reinforcement to last month’s article, please note that “Karl and I” is incorrect because the subject, you, is understood, making “Karl and me” a compound object.

Dwight describes a related poem he wrote as therapy and he gave me permission to share it. Enjoy!

Me, Myself, and I

In the mirror,

upon the shelf,

I looked and saw

of course, myself.

 Friends missing there

were Me and I.

They have departed,

and I could cry… 

Remember fondly,

when there were three,

when one could say,

“look at Me!”

But now myself

is all I hear,

it’s disconcerting

and quite unclear…


Bring back the days

long since gone by,

when we all hung out,

Me, Myself, and I.

Lorraine Ranalli

Lorraine Ranalli

Lorraine Ranalli is Chief Storyteller & Communications Director, as well as published author. Her most recent work, Impact: Deliver Effective, Meaningful, and Memorable Presentations, is a pocket book of public ... Web: LorraineRanalli.com Details