When to use me or I

Me, Myself, and I - Business Grammar Rules ExplainedPost by Mary CullenOriginally published April 30, 2021, updated April 1, 2022Me, Myself, and I errors are one of the most common

When to use me or I

Me, Myself, and I - Business Grammar Rules Explained

Mary Cullen

Post by Mary Cullen
Originally published April 30, 2021, updated April 1, 2022

Me, Myself, and I - Business Grammar Rules Explained

Me, Myself, and I errors are one of the most common business grammar errors we see in business writing training sessions.

What is the difference between me, myself, and I?

I recently found this illustrative error reading one of my favorite blogs (unnamed now, since I don't want to link the error to this otherwise wonderful blog):

Can you find the error?

My sister-in-law and brother surprised Eric and I with some personalized cards along with a rubber, address stamp this week from Nameless Print. The text on the cards is coral  one of my favorite colors and also the color of the bridesmaid dresses along with the rubber stamp ink. I was semi-dreading writing out all the thank you cards from the wedding (my handwriting leaves a lot to be desired), but after receiving these, I think I may enjoy it a little.

The error is here:

My sister-in-law and brother surprised Eric and I with some personalized cards along with a rubber, address stamp this week from Nameless Print. The text on the cards is coral  one of my favorite colors and also the color of the bridesmaid dresses along with the rubber stamp ink. I was semi-dreading writing out all the thank you cards from the wedding (my handwriting leaves a lot to be desired), but after receiving these, I think I may enjoy it a little.

It should read:

My sister-in-law and brother surprised me and Eric with...
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Grammar rules

According to The Gregg Reference Manual and AP Style Guide:

Use I, we, you, he, she, it, they (nominative/subject form personal pronoun):

  • When the pronoun is the subject of a verb.
    I wrote to Eileen McIntyre.

Use me, us, you, him, her, it, them (objective form personal pronoun):

  • When the pronoun is the direct or indirect object of a verb.
    Larry gave Maris and us tickets for the opening.
    My sister-in-law and brother surprised me and Ericwith...

The reflexive personal pronoun myself gets tricky but just remember that myself is always used as the object of a sentence and/or as an intensive pronoun to add intensity to a sentence. Myself is never used as a subject pronoun.

All personal pronouns have a matching reflexive pronoun:

  • me  myself
  • you  yourself
  • you  yourselves
  • her  herself
  • it  itself
  • he  himself
  • one  oneself
  • our  ourselves
  • they  themselves

An easy rule to remember is that the reflexive pronoun myself is always used as the object of a sentence, never the subject.

  • I (subject) see (verb) myself (reflexive objective pronoun) eating a big chocolate cookie.
  • You'd never write "Myself ate a big chocolate cookie."
  • Use myself to direct the action expressed by the verb back to the subject.
    She found herself the only one in favor of the move.

  • Use myself as an intensive pronoun to highlight a noun or pronoun already expressed.
  • I will contact her myself.
  • "I will contact her" has the same meaning, but adding "myself" adds intensity.

Me, myself, and I grammar tip

Below are two tips that will help you avoid this common me/myself/I business grammar error.

  1. Simply omit all words between the subject/verb and pronoun:
    My sister-in-law and brother surprised Eric and I.
    My sister-in-law surprised I... sounds odd to the ear. You'll know immediately that My sister-in-law surprised me... is correct. Omit the injected words for a quick check.

  2. If you were, for some odd reason, rarely allowed to include myself. So, if you are confused, just don't use myself unless you are certain the usage is correct.

    This way, you will never write the common error:
    Please send the report to myself and Karen.

    You will know that the correct sentence is:
    Please send the report to me and Karen.
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