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Language Arts

Me, Myself, and I



Learn the differences and when to use the different cases of the pronoun me. When should you choose me versus I, and what situations call for myself? This article explains.

Me, Myself, and I

Especially because many people speak casually and without regard for the “rules,” it can be difficult to learn the “proper” use of some words. The choice of when to use me, I, or myself is one of the word choices that frequently vexes people. Read on to gain an understanding of when to use each, and what’s behind the rules.

Each of the forms me, myself, and I refers to the same person (you), but they work in different contexts. They are all first person singular pronouns. This means that you use the when speaking about yourself. This is how the first personal singular pronouns work:

Subject Pronoun (Used for subject and nominatives): I
Object Pronoun (Used for direct or indirect object and informal nominatives): me
Possessive Pronoun: my, mine
Reflexive Pronoun: myself

So, for the three pronouns discussed in this article, I is the form used for the subject of a sentence as well as for the predicate nominative. Me is used for direct object and indirect object. And myself is used for reflexive situations. Let me explain what all that means.

Subject

The subject of the sentence need not be the topic of the sentence. The sentence, “I love big, gooey, drippy fluffernutter sandwiches with a tall glass of milk: it’s my favorite snack!” The subject of the sentence is I, but the topic could be variously stated as “my favorite snack” or “the snack I love most” or in other ways, as well. In any case, the point is that I is not the topic. When the verb of the sentence is a linking verb (am, seems, feels, appear, look, become, remain) that refers to you, names an action that you perform, or the sentence states that you are the passive recipient of the verb’s action and no subject is named, then it is proper to use I.

LINKING VERB:

I feel radiant.
I am hungry.
I become bored watching you play miniature golf.

ACTION VERB:

I hate the taste of mustard.
I want a raise.
I lost my map.

PASSIVE VERB:

I was almost drowned!
I was pestered by the most enormous pigeon you ever saw!
I was given a coupon for a free iPod.

Predicate Nominative

A predicate nominative is another place that I is used. A predicate nominative is the noun or pronoun that follows a linking verb and restates the subject. When you refer to yourself in the predicate nominative, it is proper to use I.

PREDICATE NOMINATIVE:

It was I who called you.

But, note that in colloquial English (English used in conversation) it would sound stilted to use I in the predicative nominative: people customarily use me.

PREDICATE NOMINATIVE IN INFORMAL USE:

It will likely be Tommy or me who comes to pick you up from the airport.
Hi, it’s me leaving you a voicemail. Call soon!

Direct and Indirect Object

Simply put, the direct object is generally said to be what “receives” the action of a transitive verb. In this situation, me is the proper form to use:

DIRECT OBJECT:

The snake bit me.
Hans beat me in the race, but just wait till the next time!
Shelly gave me an early birthday present.

The indirect object is what receives the direct object. It can either follow the verb directly or also appear in a prepositional phrase.

INDIRECT OBJECT:

Paul awarded me first place.  Paul awarded first place to me.
Adrienne handed me one of the seashells. Adrienne handed one of the seashells to me.
My sister paid me back by writing me a check. My sister paid me back by writing a check to me.

Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are used as objects (direct or indirect), but not as subjects and refer back to a noun already mentioned. They can also be appositives, renaming another noun for emphasis. In either case, the correct reflexive pronoun to use is myself when you are referring back to yourself in a sentence in which you already used I or me.

REFLEXIVE PRONOUN • DIRECT OBJECT:

I hit myself in the head by accident.
I washed myself with that new body wash Mom gave me.

REFLEXIVE PRONOUN • INDIRECT OBJECT:

I give myself credit for sticking with my dreams.
I bought myself a puppy.
I gave myself a treat.

REFLEXIVE PRONOUN • APPOSITIVE:

I, myself, made the pizza.
The person who washed your car for you wasn’t Billy: it was I, myself who did it!

Three at Once

In some sentences, it is possible that proper usage would include all three pronouns.

If you ask me what my opinion is, I would have to save that, for myself, I would prefer to go to a Mexican or Cuban restaurant.

In fact, it could be entirely correct to have the three pronouns follow one after the other like this:

I’m sorry you’ve been getting return calls from my secretary when you wished to speak directly to me. In the future, if you call the office and leave a message for me, I, myself will return your phone call.

Written by Mary Elizabeth