Reflexive pronouns (myself)

 

Q:

Please comment on the usage of language I often spot in business emails:

"Please respond to me and my assistant."

vs.

"Please respond to myself and my assistant."

B. Paul
bpaul2@yahoo.com

A:

In the sentences from Mr. Paul, the order of the words should be "my assistant and me" and "my assistant and myself." It's considered correct to put reference oneself last, after the reference to others.

As for the pronouns me vs. myself: strictly speaking, me, the object pronoun, is the one to use. Myself is a reflexive pronoun, and is correctly used in sentences such as "I saw myself in the mirror," and "I did it myself."

Descriptive grammar explanations, however, contain the following:

  • Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English (Biber, Johansen, Leech, Conrad, Finnegan. Longman, 1999, p. 343) states: "In examples of this type, reflexive pronouns are used as an alternative to personal pronouns. They occur particularly in contexts where there is case variation in personal pronouns." (Case variation can be defined as less than perfect attention given to the case of pronouns.)
  • Quirk et al., A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (Longman, 1985) lists this use as one under "semi-reflexive" pronoun: "When a reflexive pronoun (particularly a first person pronoun) is coordinated with another phrase:
  • They have never invited Margaret and me/myself to dinner."

  • Celce-Muria and Larsen-Freeman, The Grammar Book (Heinle and Heinle, 1999, p. 310) refers to remarks by Staczek: ".such uses of reflexives.reflect the speaker's or the writer's insecurity over whether to use the subject or object pronoun or a reflexive pronoun.."

So, the use of myself instead of the object pronoun me is borderline acceptable in the sentences that Mr. Paul sent-but it might be frowned upon by prescriptive grammarians.

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