05 A few reflections on reflexives

By Tara Crean, Writer and Media Consultant

Why do so many of us use ‘myself’ and ‘yourself’ when ‘me’, ‘you’ and ‘I’ would do? Is it because we think it sounds more official? Or more formal and correct? ‘In the event of a fire alarm, please report to the office marshal or myself.’

Or perhaps it’s to fudge the issue where confusion exists around the use of ‘me’ versus ‘I’, à la Mr Trump: ‘The president of Mexico and myself have agreed to cancel our planned meeting.’

Whatever the motivation, it runs the risk of making the author seem a little pompous and self-important.

Many would argue that people should be able to say and write whatever they like. That may be true, but if your missive should find its way into the hands of someone who prefers to stick to the rules, it risks getting right on their thrups.

To be clear, a reflexive pronoun is called for when the subject and object (direct or indirect) in a clause are the same person. ‘I looked at myself in the mirror.’ ‘He berated himself for the mistake.’

So next time you feel the urge to commit a crime against the much-abused reflexive pronoun, maybe have a little word with yourself.

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