Have you had ever had trouble deciding whether to use ‘I’, ‘me’ or ‘myself’ in a sentence?
It’s pretty easy to make a mistake, especially when speaking. It’s also easy to avoid making an error when you know a couple of easy tricks.
‘I’ is the subject of a sentence
When ‘I’ appears in a sentence it is always the subject of the sentence:
I saw the cat. Verb = saw. Who saw? I saw.
I gave the book to the man. Verb = gave. Who gave? I gave.
Peter and I sang a song. Verb = sang. Who sang? Peter and I sang.
The third example is often the one that gives some people trouble. Were you ever corrected for saying something like ‘Me and Peter sang a song‘?
The easy fix: Do what I did above: just ask ‘Who sang?’
Answer: ‘Peter sang’, ‘I sang’, therefore ‘Peter and I sang’. Splitting the double subject is how you check. You’d never say ‘Me sang’, would you?
‘Me’ is the object of a verb
When ‘me’ appears in a sentence, it is always the object of the verb.
Sometimes it’s a direct object:
The cat saw me. Verb = saw. Saw whom? Saw me.
He found me. Verb = found. Found whom? Found me.
Sometimes it’s an indirect object:
The man gave the book to me. Verb = gave. Gave what? The book (direct object). Gave the book to whom? To me (indirect object).
Easy so far.
But this is the example that causes the most trouble:
You’ve probably heard people say ‘They invited my partner and I‘. That’s just wrong.
You would say ‘They invited my partner‘ but you would never say ‘They invited I‘.
Beside, as you now know, ‘I’ is always the subject of a sentence – never the object of a verb.
Once again, splitting the double object is how you would check.
The correct version is ‘They invited my partner and me‘. Verb = invited. Invited whom? Invited my partner and invited me; therefore, invited my partner and me.
‘Myself’ is a reflexive pronoun
The really tricky one is the word ‘myself’.
It’s a type of object, but one that’s called a ‘reflexive pronoun’. In simple terms, that means it can only be used as an object when ‘I’ is the subject.
You can work out when to use it by asking a few questions. Look at these examples:
I taught myself to read. Verb = taught. Who taught? I (subject) taught. Taught whom? Myself.
I washed myself in the river. Verb = washed. Who washed? I (subject) washed. Washed whom? Myself.
These are straightforward. Not many people would say ‘I taught me…’ or ‘I washed me…’
The problem is when people think that using ‘myself’ as an object (direct or indirect) somehow sounds better. It’s hard to know how the mistake came about, but it’s everywhere, especially when there are two objects.
You’ve probably heard something like:
You (subject) can contact Sue or myself.
The teacher (subject) passed the music to Peter and myself.
Once again, split the double object and ask these questions:
Would you say, ‘You can contact myself‘? or ‘The teacher passed the music to myself‘? Well, to be honest, some people do. It’s still wrong. You would use ‘me‘.
You can contact Sue or me.
The teacher passed the music to Peter and me.
Remember: You can only use ‘myself’ when ‘I’ is the subject of the sentence, as in:
I (subject) used myself (reflexive pronoun, direct object) as an example.
When asked, I (subject) pointed to myself (reflexive pronoun, indirect object) in the photograph.
I, me, or myself?
Get them sorted. It’s an easy way to Better Communication.
Here’s a challenge:
What’s wrong with this sentence? (Yes, I really did hear this.)
And how would you correct it?
They came to Mark and I’s wedding.
Hint: This is about possessive adjectives ; more about them later.
One Reply to “I, Me Or Myself?”
Great article Janette.
The opening had me hooked.
It reminded me of mathematics and how we keep changing the way it is taught. Little wonder we are all confused – at times – often.