Me, myself and I

Question: I doubt this is of general interest, but I believe I continue to hear the incorrect use of the word myself. An example would be, “My son and myself attended the basketball game.” The correct sentence would be, “My son and I attended the basketball game.” Could you please clarify what the correct use of this personal pronoun is?

Answer: I’m happy to jump in on this one. It’s a mistake I often hear myself. (Boy, am I clever?)

Myself is a reflexive pronoun. Along with other reflexive pronouns like himself, herself, ourselves and yourself, myself is used to refer back to a previous word in the sentence. In the case of myself, it’s the word I.

Reflexive pronouns are most commonly seen in two cases: when the subject and object are the same person or thing (including objects of prepositional phrases) and as intensive pronouns. You saw an example of the latter in my opening paragraph.

How about some examples for the good of the order, then? Our reader’s question correctly points out an incorrect usage of myself: “My son and myself attended the basketball game.” It is incorrect because the reflexive pronoun has nothing to refer to. The correct word to use in that sentence would be the subject pronoun I.

Fortunately, we are masters of grammar, so I think we can salvage this. When I was in high school, no basketball game was complete without a bag (or two) of oh-so-salty popcorn. So let’s get ourselves a snack, and redeem that reflexive pronoun in the process: “I bought some popcorn for my son and myself at the basketball game.” Now, the subject of the sentence is I, and the objects are the son and the speaker, bringing myself back in play. We could even just say, “I bought some popcorn for myself” – but, you know, sharing is caring.

To wrap it all up, if you think myself might be appropriate, take a look back at the rest of the sentence. Have you already used the word I? Are you talking about or trying to emphasize something you’re doing? If so, myself could be called for. If not, the word you’re probably looking for is me.