I still have my mother’s voice in my head from when I was little:
"It’s not ‘Me and Sally are going to the shops’, it's ‘Sally and I’."
Whether we learn English as we are growing up, or learn it later in life, we learn the rules from the people around us. We are taught that it is rude to put yourself before someone else, and that you should say I.
Me and I are two words that are often confused. It may be because of that voice in our heads from when we are young that we try not to sound rude or wrong, and then we over-compensate.
I (and we, he, she, you and they) are pronouns. They are used to represent a person instead of using their name. These pronouns are classed as subject pronouns as they do the action of the sentence.
✔ I went to the movies.
✔ She went to the movies
We use I when it is the subject of the sentence – the person doing the action.
If there are two or more people doing the action, we say
✔ Sally and I went to the movies.
X Sally and me went to the movies
Me (and us, him, her, you, and them) are also pronouns but they substitute for the object of the verb. They are classed as object pronouns as they are the object or receiver of the action.
✔ Sally spoke to me
Me is the receiver of the talking so we use me.
When there is more than one person receiving the action, we still use me
✔ Sally spoke to Jane and me
Many people feel this sounds wrong - maybe because of that voice from their childhood.
To check if you have it right, take out the extra person (in this case Jane) and see if it sounds right.
X Sally spoke to I
✔ Sally spoke to me
The other day I heard a sentence on TV along the lines of
X Sally and myself went to the movies
or sometimes you hear
X She gave it to Sally and myself
This is often done as people are over correcting their grammar. Perhaps they think it sounds posher or more correct.
Myself is a reflexive pronoun. It is used when the subject and object (the doer and the receiver) of a sentence refers to the same person.
✔ He cut himself
You wouldn’t say
X Myself went to the movies
so we wouldn’t say
X Jane and myself went to the movies.
Myself can also be an intensive pronoun. It is used for emphasis.
✔ I made it myself
In this sentence, I is a subject pronoun, it is an object pronoun and myself is a reflexive pronoun.
Marja Stack is a copy-editor and proofreader based in New Zealand. Her business, Clearlingo Editing and Proofreading, caters to all writers of fiction or non-fiction books. For more information or enquiries for how she can help you make your book shine, please see her website: www.clearlingo.co.nz.
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