Let’s Tackle “Me Myself and I”

Is it “and I” or “and me”? One of the most common errors that creep into business grammar is the pesky Me, Myself, and I.  

What is the difference between the three words?

Here is an example of this illustrative error found on a popular blog with otherwise excellent content. As you can see, it can happen to the best of us:

Can you spot the error?

“My husband and his brother surprised Mary and I with a last-minute vacation to Hawaii, something that has been a dream of mine since I was a child. After Grayson was born, I had put this dream on the backburner, busy with motherhood and work, and here it was — my dream was about to come true! The tickets and hotels were booked, vocation clothes purchased (my husband might have overdosed on the colourful shirts a bit!), and we were set to jet off into paradise!”

The error is here:

“My husband and his brother surprised Mary and I with a last-minute vacation to Hawaii, something that has been a dream of mine since I was a child. After Grayson was born, I had put this dream on the backburner, busy with motherhood and work, and here it was — my dream was about to come true! The tickets and hotels were booked, vocation clothes purchased (my husband might have overdosed on the colorful shirts a bit!), and we were set to jet off into paradise!” 

It should read:

My husband and his brother surprised Mary and ME with a last-minute vacation to Hawaii, 

Grammar Rules

Here is what AP Style Guide  and The Gregg Reference Manual has to say on the subject: 

I, you, we, he, she, it, and they (nominative/subject form personal pronoun) should be used:

  • In cases when the pronoun is the subject of a verb.
  • I spoke to Mark Patterson.

Me, us, you, him, her, it, and them (objective form personal pronoun) should be used:

  • In cases when the pronoun is the direct or indirect object of a verb.
  • Mary gave Stephen and us invitations to the gala.
  • My wife and her sister surprised Kris and me by…

It gets tricky when the reflexive personal pronoun myself is involved. 

(SIDE NOTE: Reflexive pronouns are essentially words that have -self or -selves at the end and are used in sentences where the subject and the object are the same (e.g., She believed in herself.) Reflexive pronouns can act both as objects and indirect objects. Here is a pronoun tip sheet!)

The rule of thumb is that myself is always used as the object of a sentence and or to add intensity to a sentence (as an intensive pronoun). However, myself is never used as a subject pronoun.

Here is a list of personal pronouns and their matching reflexive pronoun (which they all have):

list of personal pronouns with their reflective pronouns: me — myself you — yourself you — yourselves her — herself it — itself he — himself one — oneself our — ourselves they — themselves

Remember this simple rule: reflexive pronoun myself is always used as the object of a sentence and never the subject. Here are some examples: 

  • She (subject) sees (verb) herself (reflexive objective pronoun) driving a red sports car. 
    • You’d never write, “Herself drives a red sports car.”  
  • Use myself to direct the action communicated by the verb back to the subject.
  • He found himself the only person who didn’t mind the wait 
  • Use myself as an intensive pronoun to underline a noun or pronoun already expressed.
    • I will speak to him myself.
    • “I will speak to him” has the same meaning, but adding “myself” adds intensity.

Me, Myself, and I Grammar Tip 

To avoid this common me/myself/I grammar error, keep these two simple tips in mind:  

  1. This is a simple and foolproof way to check yourself and make the correct choice: take out all words between the subject/verb and the pronoun: 

“My husband and his brother surprised Mary and I” becomes “My husband surprised I,” which sounds very odd. This way, you will know right away the My husband surprised me… is the correct option.  

Graphic explaining is it and I or and me: take out all words between the subject/verb and the pronoun

2. Try to avoid myself alltogether, whenever possible. This way, you will avoid the common mistake:

You can send the paperwork to Arthur and myself

You will know that the correct version would be:

You can send the paperwork to Arthur and me

Now that you can confidently answer the question is it “and I” or “and me,” you can test your new-found knowledge with this little quiz. Good luck! 

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