1 Usage Error Everyone’s Making

mirror imagePronouns! Do you know how many people misuse pronouns? And of all the words to use correctly, these would be the ones. But there is a ton of confusion about most of them, especially the “self” ones. So let’s see if I can help you understand how to use this particular type correctly.

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The self pronouns are also known as reflexive pronouns. The only time we can use them is when they “reflect” back to the subject of the sentence and are the SAME person.

 

  • YES: I cut myself shaving (I and myself are the same person).
  • YES: John sings to himself in the shower (John and himself are the same person).
  • NO:   Myself and John went to the movies. (If you remove John, would you ever say myself went to the movies?)
  • NO:   John and myself went to the movies. (See above question.)
  • NO:   Susan asked John and myself … (Again, remove John. You’d choose me without him in the sentence, right?)

I believe this all came about for two reasons:
1) We are terrified of using I and me, and myself just sounds so good.
2) Everyone uses the self pronouns, so they must be right … right? No.

Of course, self pronouns and others can be used correctly, depending on the intent of the sentence.

YES: John talks to himself a lot. (John and himself are the same person.)

YES: John talks to him a lot. (him = another male person)

So, as you can see, we use self pronouns ONLY when the subject and the pronoun are identifying the same person. 

We use regular pronouns when the subject and pronoun are different persons. 

So the next time you’re tempted to use any self pronoun, stop. Check it out. Does it reflect back to the subject? If not, use another one.

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