Me, Myself, and I: When To Use Which
by Trista Cornelius
Agitated school schoolmarms of old became been fed up with pupils gushing, “Me and Mary are late because the goats got out of the pen again.” They promised lives of failure and humiliation if these pupils ever – even once more – mistook “I” for “me” in such a sentence.
“It’s ‘Mary and I are late!’” screeched the school schoolmarms, “not ‘Mary and me’!”
Generations later, many of us have fearfully over-learned this rule, nixing “me” out of our sentences as much as possible, fitting in “myself” when our nerves get the best of us, and ending up in identity crisis:
I found these jeans did not fit myself as much as I would have liked after we … I mean me … I mean I … had a lovely birthday weekend for myself.
Okay, I don’t know if the schoolmarm theory is true. Nor do I think most of us get quite so befuddled about our role in the sentences we speak or write. I do, however, frequently hear “I” used when it should be “me” and vice versa.
Let’s start with the incorrect use of “me.”
Me and Bertha walked to Octavia’s tea party even though we weren’t invited.
The simple way to confirm that “me” is incorrect is to take out the other subject, Bertha. You would not say, “Me walked to Octavia’s party.” You would say, “I walked.”
Therefore, the following is correct:
Bertha and I walked to Octavia’s tea party even though we weren’t invited.
To compare, here is the common incorrect use of “I”:
Octavia gave a present to Bertha and I when we arrived.
Again, if you eliminate Bertha, you would not say, Octavia gave I a present.
Here, “me” is correct since it’s the object of the preposition “to.” Who did Octavia give a gift to? “Me.”
Therefore, here’s the correct sentence:
Octavia gave a present to Bertha and me when we arrived.
Remember the basic grammar rules: “I” is used as the subject of verb:
Bertha and I walked to Octavia’s tea party.
“Me” is an object of a verb or of a preposition:
She gave Bertha and me a pot of tea to share and, between you and me, it was the best brew I ever tasted.
Note the prepositional phrase “between you and me.” Sometimes people say or write “between you and I.” However, “between” is a preposition that always requires the object pronoun “me.”
One tip to remember this rule: The “e” sound in “me” echoes the “e” sound in
The mangled mess of “myself”
“Myself” appears in a sentence when “I” has already been used and you’re referring back to yourself. The following sentences are all correct:
“I consider myself a bit of a tea expert,” Octavia demurred.
“I find myself wishing we had not crashed the tea party,” Bertha whispered to me.”
I told Bertha, “Coffee-drinkers like myself find tea a poor substitute.”
“Myself” can also be used for emphasis:
I, myself, love a good game of cricket.
Nothing wrong here. However, using “myself” for emphasis can get overused. In fact, my dictionary warns overuse can make a writer sound pompous or self-important. Often, “myself” is misused when “me” would suffice. Here are some examples of overuse:
The apology letter to Octavia was discussed between Bertha and myself.
“The paragraph about the Tea Society president and myself says it all,” gushed Octavia.
While these may not sound awful to your ears, “me” is the better choice in both sentences.
The apology letter to Octavia was discussed between Bertha and me.
“The paragraph about the Tea Society president and me says it all,” gushed Octavia.
“I” is a subject followed by a verb:
The three dogs and I ran into Bertha and her friend during our evening walk.
“Me” is the direct object of a verb:
Bertha and her friend offered me and the dogs a ride home.
“Me” is also the direct object of a preposition:
The invitation addressed to me from Octavia arrived two days after the party.
“Myself” is a reflexive pronoun referring back to “I”:
I consoled myself with a strong cup of coffee.
I will now take myself away from the computer and the drafting of this article so I can get a snack for my pet turtle and, between you and me, some chocolate for me. See you next month!
Trista Cornelius writes Voice Catcher’s monthly column “Dotting Your Ts and Crossing Your Eyes” and is currently on a leave of absence from Clackamas Community College where she has been teaching writing, literature and food studies. Follow her writing, reading and eating adventures here.