Parts of Speech: Reflexive pronouns

August 24, 2006: Issue 153

Use reflexive pronouns (myself, herself, yourself) only when the pronoun matches the subject of the sentence:
correct: Ouch, I just cut myself with this crafts knife.
correct: Gina hired a contractor to strip and sand the floors, then stained them herself.
correct: Try it for yourself.
(Note that in the last example, the subject of the sentence is an understood “you.”)

“Myself” causes particular problems. It’s often substituted inexplicably for the word “me,” particularly by writers and speakers who want to sound formal.
incorrect: If you have questions, talk to Bob or myself.
correct: If you have questions, talk to Bob or me.

Remember that a reflexive pronoun can’t be the subject of a sentence.
incorrect: Aisha and myself are working on that report.
correct: Aisha and I are working on that report.

You’ll find this rule broken in older writing, particularly in poetry (see Emily Dickinson’s “The Return,” for example). But as we’re not publishing poetry, we encourage you to follow the rule—or have a very good reason for breaking it.

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