I’m dealing with a pronoun identity crisis. It’s like trying to pick a clone from Star Wars out of a lineup. Me, Myself, and I are all possible suspects. Which one should I use in my sentence? With the help of Anne Stilman (and with apologies to Jango Fett), I’m going to sort out these annoying pronoun clones once and for all.
Suspect Number One: I, the Arrogant Subject
I is a “take charge” kind of pronoun. I demands pride of place as the subject of a sentence (the person committing the action).
I will lead my troops to victory! ✓
I continues to demand this right even when there are other subjects in the sentence.
Yoda and I will never be good friends. ✓
I hates it when someone writes Yoda and Me. ✕ This is simply disrespectful.
I also barges in when there are comparisons between two subjects. I shows up even when there is no verb following it.
Mace Windu thinks he is better than I. ✓
In the sentence above, the verb is implied. The full sentence is below.
Mace Windu thinks he is better than I am. ✓ (What a fool!) ✕
I wants you to know that missing words don’t excuse you from getting this right. Don’t screw it up by saying Mace thinks he is better than Me. ✕
I is also arrogant enough to crowd in directly after a verb, when the verb is a form of to be (is, am, was, were).
It is I, the great clone warrior! ✓
In this case, I is following a linking verb (is). A linking verb links the subject to the item that follows it. It (the subject) = I (the subject).
I wants us to understand that I is clearly > Me, so It is Me is ridiculous. (Although this usage is increasingly accepted—for another view, check out Grammar Girl’s take on “It is I.”)
Bottom line, I is an attention hog and a horrible dinner companion. Enough said.
Suspect Number Two: Me, the Objectified Victim
Everyone is always out to get Me. Instead of being a subject, this pronoun is treated as an object. Verbs are constantly acting against Me.
They are all plotting to dispose of Me. ✓
Since I is a hog, it likes to kick Me out of its rightful place when there are multiple objects in a sentence.
The Jedi are pestering Boba and I. ✕
This is completely wrong, and makes Me suffer. Here’s the correct version.
The Jedi are pestering Boba and Me. ✓
On a bright note, there is one sentence where Me is not the underdog.
Woe is Me. ✓
At first glance, it looks like I should be taking over this sentence. (Remember when I followed the linking verb is in It is I?) Not so fast. This is another sentence with some implied words.
Woe is delivered unto Me. ✓
Me continues to be an object here, as the receiver of a delivery. So Me wins this round (if you can call it winning).
How appropriate that we are talking about woe around such a moping and hard-done-by pronoun. Let’s move on from Me—the party pooper.
Suspect Number Three: Myself, the Perpetual Sidekick
Myself really needs a mind of its own. Instead, it follows I around everywhere, feeding I‘s superiority. This is why Myself is known as a reflexive pronoun. It is a reflection of I.
I can’t fight this war all by Myself! ✓
(Guess it’s time to make some more clones then.)
Sometimes Myself tries to rise in importance by acting as an intensive pronoun. Myself intensifies what I is saying.
I Myself believe that war is the only true answer. ✓
This is a correct sentence, but Myself is still following I around, so I’m not sure how successful its ploy for greatness is.
In a last bid for glory, you can find Myself trying to act like a subject or an object.
Dooku and Myself are clearly both subjects. ✕
The Jedi insulted Myself and my other clone brother objects. ✕
The pronoun should be I in the first sentence, and Me in the second one. Myself is out of luck. It continues to be a tagalong pronoun. No wonder it got dragged into a lineup with the other pronoun troublemakers!
I think my pronoun identity crisis is over. The verdict? All of them are still annoying. But at least I know when to use them in my sentences. Now if only they can stay out of trouble!
(Have you experienced pain with pronouns? Are there any particular grammar challenges you would like to see me tackle here? Please share your thoughts below.)
11 thoughts on “Me, Myself, or I—Whodunnit?”
Pronouns can be a pain, particularly when you’re trying to straighten out which “he” you’re referring to when there is more than one “he” (as in male person) in a sentence or paragraph. I also never know which to use — was or were — in sentences like: “If only she was/were here, we’d know what to do.” There must be a rule as to which should be used when, but I can never remember it.
Hi, Lori! I agree that it’s hard to keep track of pronouns…besides “he,” I also find people use “this” or “that” a lot, which can cause similar problems. I’ve tried to tackle the was/were rules in my post If wishes had genies…but I’m sure there’s a lot more that could be said! Will ponder this for future posts. 🙂 Thanks for commenting!
I’ll go read your other post. Thanks!
I usually just use what feels right. I am prone to: Mace Windu thinks he is better than me.
Also, funny funny post.
Hi Sonia, I write “better than me” a lot, too. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut! I am so glad you thought my post was funny. That’s what I’m going for here. Nice to hear it was a success. 🙂
Ha! Entertaining post! In keeping with the Star Wars theme, I’d like to point out that you missed the most annoying pronoun of all: me’sa, as in “Me’sa name Jar Jar Binks.” Talk about painful!
Ah, me’sa…I did miss that one. Somehow I had managed to block that terrifying construction from my mind. 😉 Me’sa glad you liked the post!
Sue, this is such a terrific post – and I’m sure hugely helpful to countless folks.
I find it a constructive exercise to continue reading other people’s tricks and rules to untangle our complex and curious language.
Thanks for the lovely comment! I like to read through other people’s tricks, too—it’s so much easier to learn our language when you can can come at it from different ways. I’m glad you enjoyed my post. 🙂
Oh, thanks! This is very handy.
You’re welcome, Christa! I’m glad my post was helpful for you.