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You are HERE >>Lesson Plans : Grade 11 Grammar

Myself and Other Reflexive Pronouns
by Elaine Ernst Schneider
January  31, 2001 rev. May 2003


 

 

               "I myself have done that."
                "Jim, Susie, and myself were planning a trip."
                "He wasn't even sure hisself how to go about it."
                "You need to give that to myself when you are done."
                "They decided just to do that theirselves."

  Which ones are correct? Which ones are unacceptable? Why?

        The words "myself," "himself," "herself," "ourselves," and "themselves" are reflexive pronouns. Reflexive use is not often addressed in grammar books. We find present, past, future, and perfect tenses. And we find the various cases of pronouns. Both of those are enough to keep the average person confused! Then the "myself" word rears its ugly head and there are few books that offer rules for its use. Let me offer some guidelines.

               First, there are no such words as "hisself" or "theirselves." The correct reflexive forms for "him" and "them" use the objective case and become "himself" and "themselves." A good way to remember this is that the word "remember" has "m's" in it. "Himself" and "themselves" both have "m's." Another memory tool is to substitute "him" or "them" in the following sentence: "Give it to HIM." You would not say "Give it to HIS." That is because "him" and "them" are objective case and "his" and "their" are possessives.

                Second, reflexive use reinforces the subject. That means
there must BE a subject. For instance, the sentence "I myself have done
the very same thing" is correct. "I" is the subject. The word "myself"
reinforces that you are talking about no one else other than the "I"
that is the subject. It is also correct to use the reflexive in third
person, as in the sentence "The boss herself told me I could do that."
Again, there is a subject that is being reinforced. "The boss" is the
subject. "Told" is the verb. You would have a sentence even if the          reflexive word "herself," were removed, i.e. "The boss told me."  Adding the word "herself" is for emphasis.

                Consider the sentence "Paula, Tim, and myself went to
the show." Since "Paula, Tim, and myself" comprise the subject, they
must be in nominative case. Myself is NEVER nominative. It can never be a subject. Therefore, the sentence should read, "Paula, Tim, and I went to the show." If the author of the sentence wishes to add emphasis to the "I," then the sentence can read, "Paula, Tim, and I myself went to the show."

                It IS correct, however, to use reflexive pronouns in objective case instances such as indirect object or direct object.

Here are examples:

                I hurt myself.  ("I" is subject. "Hurt" is the verb." "Myself" is the direct object.)

                I gave myself a manicure. ("I" is subject. "Gave" is the verb.
                    "Manicure" is the direct object. "Myself" is the indirect object.)

                Lastly, the words "myself," "himself," "herself," "ourselves," and "themselves" can also be used as objects of prepositions. Examples are "She did that by herself" or "He did that to himself." It can, however, become confusing when the preposition is "understood." In the sentence, "She did that herself," it is understood that a preposition precedes "herself." With the elliptical preposition in place, the sentence might read "She did that BY herself." Note that these instances are with objects of prepositions that are used in adverbial    phrases. The phrases answer the question "how." Adverbs can also answer the questions "when," "where," and "why."  Reflexive pronouns are normally not used in sentences where the adverbial phrase answers any other question than "how." For instance, it is not considered standard grammar to say "He gave it to myself. " Correct usage would be "He gave it to me."

Here are some practice exercises. Write C by the sentences that are correct. Rewrite the sentences that have errors.

1. Sam, Tim, and myself are headed camping now.
2. Give the paperwork to myself.
3. She accomplished that work all by herself.
4. They were concerned for theirselves in such an unsafe situation.
5. He just has to fix that hisself.
6. I want him to do the job himself.
7. I myself believe that also.
8. The players themselves are willing to clean the field.
9. She asked herself some probing questions.
10. He gave hisself a good lecture.
11. Sammy gave a copy of that memo to Jim, Tom, and myself.
12. Elizabeth sang quietly to herself.
 
 

Answer key:

1. Sam, Tim, and I are headed camping now.
2. Give the paperwork to me.
3. C
4. They were concerned for themselves in such an unsafe situation.
5. He just has to fix that himself.
6. C
7. C
8. C
9. C
10. He gave himself a good lecture.
11. Sammy gave a copy of that memo to Jim, Tom, and me
12. C


Submitted by:  © Elaine Ernst Schneider  is a freelance writer and a teacher. She has been writing since high school and has published articles, songs, and children's work. Presently, Elaine is a curriculum author for Group Publishing and also writes the City Songs column for www.newcolonist.com ezine.  Send a note to Elaine.
Feedback:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Q. Aren't some of your uses actually intensive pronouns instead of
reflexive?  Ex:  I myself believe that also.  That is the correct use of myself, but myself in that example is an intensive pronoun not a relative
pronoun.
M

A. You are correct - there are two uses, but it is labeled both ways, depending on the book you use. All but one of my books call it a "reflexive pronoun used to indicate intensity." The one book breaks it down further into two
parts: reflexive and intensity. I like the simplicity of still calling it a reflexive pronoun and then indicating an alternate use because it is easier for high school and beginning college students to understand. Not everyone is as astute in the grammar rules as you obviously are. But if you think about it, both uses still "send" the reader/listener back to the "writer/speaker;" hence, it is used to indicate a reflexive relationship in both instances. One (the intense) is just more specific.
Sincerely, elaine@lessontutor.com, September, 2005

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"RE: Reflexive Pronouns:
 
Thanks for the great lesson.  In 1964 I had a great English professor, Dr. Wentworth, teach me something I will never forgot
 
After using myself incorrectly in a sentence he said:
 
"Dennis, you are the only person who can do anything thing to or for yourself and I am the only person who can do anything to or for myself.  For instance, I cannot call yourself, but you can.  You cannot see myself but I can"
 
 I crinch each time I hear: something like:
 
Who will be there?  Bob, John and myself.
 
Please feel free to contact Tom or myself.
 
Thanks again for the helpful explanation of reflexive pronouns."
April 11, 2004


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*
I found the above lesson by Elaine Schneider to be very helpful and informative. About a year ago, somebody pointed out the high rate of the improper use of the word myself.  Since then, I have not been able to get away from it. My general rule is if you can use I or me instead of myself and it still sounds right, then you probably should.  An example I received today from NFL.com is shown below.

              You're invited to join myself and the boys in the band for a
    unique New York celebration!

Is this use incorrect?  I would believe it should be "You're invited to join the boys in the band and me for a unique New York celebration!

 Thank you for your help. S

Dear S,
   You are absolutely correct - both in your assessment and in your reconstruction of the sentence. The sentence should read as follows:

         You're invited to join the boys in the band and me for a unique New York celebration!

   Bravo to ya!
   Sincerely,
   Elaine Schneider

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