One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
When to use ‘myself’ and ‘yourself’
I managed to restrain myself. [direct object]
I think I should give myself a pat on the back. [indirect object]
I was left in a room by myself for hours. [object of preposition]
Another standard use is when myself isn’t required for the sentence to make grammatical sense, but adds emphasis:
I made it myself.
I began to feel guilty myself.
I myself couldn't imagine him as a colleague.
Myself is also used in ways which many people object to or dislike, as follows:
- as the subject of a verb:
It wasn't that Peter and myself were being singled out.
My friends and myself do not find it a great problem.
- as the object of a verb:
They hauled Barry and myself in for questioning.
But that would involve Kate and myself working together!
- as the object of a preposition:
His nervousness communicated itself to Isaac and myself.
‘The rift between myself and Felicity is final and unmendable’, he announced.
As the examples above show, myself in these uses often occurs in conjunction with another name. Such uses attract criticism because, according to strict grammar, either I as subject or me as object should be used, e.g.:
My friends and I do not find it a great problem.
They hauled Barry and me in for questioning.
His nervousness communicated itself to Isaac and me.
Possibly, people use myself instead of me in cases like this because they think that me is too self-centred or too brusque, but to use it would be fine, as the rewrites illustrate. When myself replaces I, it is probably for other reasons: to say my friends and I, though absolutely correct, could sound rather formal in conversation; on the other hand, people know that my friends and me is considered wrong, so they replace it with my friends and myself. Some people might also use myself because they consider it in some way more elegant or refined.
Whatever the reasons, it is as well to be aware that many people dislike such uses, and therefore to avoid them in writing. Some grammar checkers flag them and can thereby help you avoid them.
As with myself, there are two standard ways of using yourself to which nobody will object: as a reflexive pronoun (Did you hurt yourself?; Help yourself to some cake, Tim) and for emphasis (You are going to have to do it yourself).
Staff who deal with the public in businesses such as restaurants, call centres, and the like, quite often use yourself in a rather different way, as a substitute for you: Is this soup for yourself?; Is the appliance for yourself, sir? Using yourself in this way should be avoided in any kind of formal writing, and is considered wrong by some people even in speech. Arguably, however, it fulfils a useful function in the situations mentioned: it sounds more formal and less direct than you, and is thus perceived as more polite.
Back to Grammar tips.
You may also be interested in:
In this article we explore how to impress employers with a spot-on CV.