We often make mistakes about ourselves

Why is it we English-speaking individuals make so many errors with compound pronouns including self or selves?

Is it because we are so egotistical that we believe we are the pinnacle of power and importance? Or are we so egocentric that it is difficult to speak on any topic without being the center of said subject?

At any rate, those two single-syllable words indicating an individual seem to help us create multiple mistakes.

One of two correct uses of pronouns with "self" or "selves" is that which is intensive: "I myself can do this," "You yourself must deal with the issue" or "The parents themselves stepped up to make decisions."

Not quite so simple, but at least as important is the use of these pronouns for the reflexive. This means that they refer back to the same person, animal or object, another noun or pronoun. This could be something like: "I embarrassed myself"; "The dog licked himself"; "The car seemed to drive itself." I/myself, dog/himself and car/itself are exact pairs, one in each pair reflecting upon the other.

Many people use these self words incorrectly as the subject of the sentence: "James and myself feel strongly about this." Would you ever say, “myself feels strongly?” If it doesn’t sound right on its own, it cannot be correct when used with another noun or pronoun.

This example is definitely not intensive, and it has no word on which to be reflexive. One rule to help here is that it is never correct to use "myself" in a sentence that does not also have a first-person pronoun (I, me, my).

How about: "He sat down with Gary and myself?" This pronoun needs to be objective: "He sat with me."

Another common error is also the object of the sentence: "The boss spoke to Fred and myself" ("The boss spoke to me"). Again, what sounds correct by itself is the pronoun to use with another noun or pronoun.

Once more, just use the self to be intensive ("I myself will make the choice") or reflexive ("They revealed themselves as the criminals").

Don’t be selfish enough to use self words in any other way!

— Sandi Ekberg taught high school English in Medford for 30 years. If you have grammar questions, email her at ifixgrammar@charter.net

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