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Reflexive Pronouns

Loyal reader Bill P. and others have written in commenting on what seems to be a growing misuse of words known as reflexive pronouns. Have you either heard or seen in writing a sentence like this, “Please give it to John or myself”? Is that right or wrong? Let’s have a look.

Rule: Reflexive pronouns—myself, himself, herself, itself, themselves, ourselves, yourself, yourselves—should be used only when they refer back to another word in the sentence. (A reflexive pronoun reflects the action described by the verb.)

Correct:
I worked myself to the bone.
(The word myself refers back to the word I.)

Incorrect:
Please give it to John or myself.
(The word myself does not refer back to another word.)

Correct:
Please give it to John or me.
(Why do some people use myself rather than me in the sentence above? Is it because it sounds more “upper class”? Possibly—however, it is incorrect grammar.)

Although the following example is not strictly an incorrect reflexive pronoun because it does not reflect the action described by the verb, the principle is the same.

Incorrect:
My brother and myself did it.

Correct:
My brother and I did it.

 

Pop Quiz

1A. Please call either Juanita or myself when you get this message.
1B. Please call either Juanita or me when you get this message.

2A. The chief of staff and myself want to thank you for your hard work.
2B. The chief of staff and I want to thank you for your hard work.

3A. Since we each have a job, we are able to support ourselves.
3B. Since we each have a job, we are able to support us.

 

Answers

1A. Please call either Juanita or myself when you get this message.
1B. Please call either Juanita or me when you get this message. (Correct)

2A. The chief of staff and myself want to thank you for your hard work.
2B. The chief of staff and I want to thank you for your hard work. (Correct)

3A. Since we each have a job, we are able to support ourselves. (Correct)
3B. Since we each have a job, we are able to support us.

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Posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2012, at 10:44 am


Its vs. It’s

Would you like to know the #1 Grammar Error?
Hint:
The word involved is small and it’s contained in this sentence.

That’s right: its vs. it’s
Yet the two rules are actually quite easy to remember.

Rule 1: When you mean it is or it has, use an apostrophe.

Examples:
It’s a nice day.
It’s your right to refuse the invitation.
It’s been great getting to know you.

Rule 2: When you are using its as a possessive, don’t use the apostrophe.

Examples:
The cat hurt its paw.
The furniture store celebrated its tenth anniversary.

 
Note: From what we understand, the possessive was also written it’s until a couple of hundred years ago. While we don’t know for certain, it is possible that the apostrophe was dropped in order to parallel possessive personal pronouns like hers, theirs, yours, ours, etc.”

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Posted on Thursday, April 12, 2012, at 5:35 pm


I vs. Me (Review)

I get more questions about pronoun usage, particularly I vs. me, than any other topic. So, here is a review that should help you feel more secure about your choices. For more on the topic, click here.

Should we say, “She and I went to the store”? Or is it correct to say, “She and me went to the store”?

Is it, “He put suntan lotion on him and I”? Or would you say, “He put suntan lotion on him and me”?

Many of us were taught to be suspicious of me, as though uttering this “dirty” word would make us sound uneducated. But the question of whether to use I or me comes down to whether you are using the word as a subject or as an object in the sentence. Both words are pronouns, but I is a subject pronoun while me is an object pronoun.

So, in the sentence, “She and I went to the store,” the correct word to use would be I rather than me. Why? Because I is the subject of the sentence. (Who is going to the store? She and I are going to the store.)

One good way to test this rule is to see how it sounds when you use each pronoun individually: It sounds right to say, “She went to the store.” You would also say, “I went to the store.”

“He put suntan lotion on him and me” would be correct because him and me are objects. Specifically, they are objects of the preposition on. “He put suntan lotion on him” is obviously correct rather than “on he.” You would also say, “He put suntan lotion on me,” not “on I.”

Pop Quiz
Select the correct sentence.

1A. Arlene asked he and I to complete the job.
1B. Arlene asked him and me to complete the job.

2A. He and I completed the job for Arlene.
2B. Him and me completed the job for Arlene.

Answers to Pop Quiz

1B. Arlene asked him and me to complete the job.
2A. He and I completed the job for Arlene.

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Posted on Tuesday, June 9, 2009, at 9:30 am


Pronoun Tips

Pronouns take the place of nouns.

Subject pronouns: I, you, he, she, it, we, they

Object pronouns: me, you, him, her, it, us, them

Rule: Use a subject pronoun, not only as the subject of a sentence, but after to be verbs when the pronoun renames the subject.

To be
verbs:
is, are, was, were, will be, may be, may have been, etc.

Example: He is my friend.
He is the subject of the sentence, so use a subject pronoun.

Example: Enrique and she are friends.
Enrique and she are the subjects of the sentence.

Example:
It is I who called.
I comes after the to be verb is and renames the subject it. Therefore, use the subject pronoun.

Rule: Use an object pronoun when the pronoun is the direct object, the indirect object, or the object of the preposition.

Example: Ella met him at the restaurant.
Him is the direct object.

Example: Ella will give him his money back.
Him is an indirect object because you can mentally put the word to in front of it. Money is the direct object.

Example: Between you and me, this will never work.
You and me are the objects of the preposition between.

Rule: Use reflexive pronouns—myself, himself, herself, itself, themselves, ourselves, yourself, yourselves—to refer back to another noun or pronoun in the sentence.

Correct: I did it myself.

Incorrect: Please give it to Butri or myself.
In this sentence, myself does not refer back to another noun or pronoun.

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Posted on Sunday, November 11, 2007, at 1:05 am


Whoever vs. Whomever

In the “English Rules” section of our website, GrammarBook.com, you will find our simple explanation for determining whether to use who or whom.

Briefly, this is the trick:
who = he (subject pronouns)
whom = him (object pronouns)

Example: Who/Whom is at the door?
He is at the door.

Example: For who/whom should I vote?
Should I vote for him?

To determine whether to use whoever or whomever,  the he/him trick still applies:
he = whoever
him = whomever

Rule 1: The presence of whoever or whomever indicates a dependent clause. Use whoever or whomever to agree with the verb in that dependent clause, regardless of the rest of the sentence.

Examples:
Give it to whoever/whomever asks for it first.
He asks for it first. Therefore, whoever is correct.

We will hire whoever/whomever you recommend.
You recommend him. Therefore, whomever is correct.

We will hire whoever/whomever is most qualified.
He is most qualified. Therefore, whoever is correct.

 

Rule 2: When the entire whoever/whomever clause is the subject of the verb that follows the clause, analyze the clause to determine whether to use whoever or whomever.

Examples:
Whoever is elected will serve a four-year term.
Whoever is the subject of is elected. The clause whoever is elected is the subject of will serve.

Whomever you elect will serve a four-year term.
Whomever is the object of elect. Whomever you elect is the subject of will serve.

 

Pop Quiz

  1. Omar will talk about his girlfriend with whoever/whomever asks him.
  2. Kimiko donates her time to whoever/whomever needs it most.
  3. Quinton will work on the project with whoever/whomever you suggest.
  4. Whoever/Whomever wins the lottery will become a millionaire.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

  1. Omar will talk about his girlfriend with whoever asks him.
  2. Kimiko donates her time to whoever needs it most.
  3. Quinton will work on the project with whomever you suggest.
  4. Whoever wins the lottery will become a millionaire.

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Posted on Sunday, May 27, 2007, at 9:41 pm