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.
The subject of the sentence: I
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 sang, I sang, Peter and I sang.
The third example is the only one that gives some people trouble. Were you ever corrected for saying ‘Me and Peter sang a song’.
The easy fix is to 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?
The object of the verb: me
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:
The teacher passed the music to Peter and me. Verb = passed. Passed to whom? To Peter, to me, to Peter and me.
You’ve probably heard people say ‘… passed it to Peter and I’. That’s just wrong.
Once again, splitting the double object is how you would check. You would say ‘The teacher passed it to Peter’ but you would never say ‘… passed it to I’.
Beside, as you now know, ‘I’ is always the subject of a sentence – never the object of a verb.
Put it to the test: ‘I’, ‘me’ or ‘myself’?
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.
This time, split the double object and ask these questions:
Would you say, ‘You can contact myself‘? or ‘The teacher passed the music to myself‘?Probably not. You would use ‘me‘.
When there is a double object, you should do the same:
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.