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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Criminal Sentence 29: Me or Myself?

From a Q&A column in my newspaper. The writer is asking about whether to close air conditioning vents in two unused rooms.

"With two bedrooms being unused, it leads to a debate between my wife and myself."

In addition to being poorly worded, this sentence has a grammatical error: "myself" instead of "me." Although the writer is talking about himself, "me" is correct.

You use "myself" (and other reflexive pronouns like it: himself, herself, ourselves, themselves) when you've already mentioned "I" (or he, she, we, they):

I washed myself.

You wouldn't say, "I washed me."

In this criminal sentence, there is a debate between two people: the wife and the writer. If the writer had an argument with himself, he could say, "I had a debate with myself."


Pablo said...

I am not quite sure about using "me" in this sentence. Wouldn't it be better to use "I" as in:

"With two bedrooms being unused, it leads to a debate between my wife and I." ?

Ironically I don't even know if writing "Wouldn't it be better to use I..." is correct; as English is not my native language. :)

The Sentence Sleuth said...

Hola, Pablo. Same thing in Spanish, I believe: "a mi" or "a yo." Since "a mi" is correct ("to me," not "to I"), you use "me" after a preposition such as "between." If you want to test whether "I" or "me" is right, take away the "and" part of the sentence. You wouldn't say "between I," so you know "between me" is right.