Me, myself and I: Deciphering pronouns

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Which of the following sentences is correct?

1. Please copy Robert and I on that email.
2. Please copy Robert and me on that email.
3. Please copy Robert and myself on that email.

If you’re not sure of the answer, you’re not the only one. The misuse of pronouns—I, me, myself, he, himself, her, herself, them, themselves—can make your writing seem “juvenile and nonstandard.” Or so says one of my old grammar books.

Let’s examine a few rules for using pronouns so we can cut through the confusion and write for grown-ups.

Pronouns are words used in place of nouns. A pronoun designates a person, place, or thing without naming it. Every pronoun has a case, which means there are different forms for different functions in the sentence.

Subjective case—I, he, she, we, they, who, whoever. These pronouns are used as subjects in a sentence.

I went to happy hour.
She and I went to happy hour.

Objective case—me, him, her, us, them, whom, whomever. These pronouns are used as objects in a sentence.

The bartender served Janie and me.

In the first example, you would not say, “Me went to the happy hour.” You would say, “I went to the happy hour.” The pronoun “I” is used as a subject and is correct in the sentence.

“Me” is used as the object in the second example. You would not say, “The bartender served I.” Therefore, “The bartender served me,” is correct.

Reflexive case—myself, yourself, himself, herself, ourselves, themselves. These pronouns are used to rename subjects. They should only be used to refer to a previous word in the sentence.

He corrected himself.
The winners congratulated themselves.
I was ashamed of myself.

“Sarah and myself had dinner,” is incorrect because myself is not referring back to Sarah, the subject of the sentence. “Sarah and I had dinner,” is correct.

[RELATED: Get advanced writing and editing tips from Mark Ragan and Jim Ylisela.]

Reflexive pronouns can also be used for emphasis. They repeat the noun or pronoun they refer to.

The owner himself brought our drinks.
You should write that article yourself.

Going back to our first example, the second sentence, “Please copy Robert and me on that email,” is correct.

Ragan readers, any other pronouns that trip you up?

Laura Hale Brockway is an Austin-based writer and editor and a regular contributor to PR Daily. Read more of her work at impertinentremarks.com.

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