Mighty Red Pen

June 22, 2009

Just you and myself

Filed under: Grammar goddess — mighty red pen @ 5:02 pm

Today’s thought question came from Emily with the subject line, “Grammar, schmammar.” As she says, “Everyone can play.”

Grammar question!  Is this sentence correct?  I think so, but it seems horrible:

“I have always considered you and myself to be twins separated at birth.”

Assumption #1:  Reflexive pronouns (e.g. “myself”) are correct when the subject and the object of the sentence are the same.  “I talk about myself to excess, but the stories are always hysterical.”

Assumption #2:  The first-person pronoun always comes last in a list.  “He and I went to the store to get cheese” or “Bowling is a new obsession for Mark, Nikki and me.”

So why does that sentence seem so clunky?  I know I could substitute “us” for “you and myself”, but “us” isn’t as precise (I may want to be very specific about exactly who “us” consists of).

MRP responded (somewhat off the cuff and without doing any research):

I immediately wanted to say it should be “you and me” because that sounds better to my ear, but then again, if you took away “you” and wrote the sentence as “I have always consider XX to be a twin separated at birth,” you would say “myself.”

However, I would probably say, instead, “I have always considered the two of us to be twins separated at birth.”

To which Emily responded:

I agree with your suggestion, but it still relies at least somewhat on context to determine who the “two of us” are.

It also sounds somewhat better if you use a proper noun:  “I have always considered Lamar and myself to be arch-enemies.”   But that’s still not great.

So—other than feeling bad for Lamar, who finds himself to be at extreme odds with Emily—what do you think, folks? Bonus points for the person who provides an actual grammatical explanation for this beyond “it sounds right.”

9 Comments »

  1. “You and myself” surely must be incorrect? Perhaps correctly “yourself and myself”? But I would just re-write the sentence:

    I have always considered you to be my long-lost twin, separated at birth.

    Or alternatively;

    I have always considered myself to be your long-lost twin, separated at birth.

    Comment by Vireya — June 22, 2009 @ 6:16 pm | Reply

  2. From TechRepublic http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/career/?p=395 post:

    ************************
    Another incorrect use of language that occurs because people think it sounds more correct or more polite is the use of myself or yourself when you really should say me or you. The word myself is really only used to emphasize a point of view, e.g., “I, myself, liked the movie.” But it should be neither the subject nor the object (unless the object is the subject – “I am giving myself a pat on the back”), and it’s not a substitute for me or I. You would be incorrect in saying, “I have enough for you and myself.” The sentence should be “I have enough for you and me.”
    ************************

    The above is how I thought it should be.

    Another link addressing this situation, with which I agree is http://uwf.edu/writelab/advice/documents/wa-onjobgram8.htm

    Comment by sefcug — June 23, 2009 @ 9:35 am | Reply

  3. This is exactly why I always slept through English class. lol

    Seriously though, if I were to write that same sentence, I would phrase it like:

    “I have always considered you to be my long lost twin.”

    – Chris
    MRP Software for the Manufacturing Industry

    Comment by Chris McLittle — June 23, 2009 @ 10:01 am | Reply

  4. I would posit that assumption #1 is incorrect and that the subject (“I”) is not the same as the object (“you and [I]”), so the reflexive form is not applicable. When they are, the sentence is not clunky, as you’ve noted (although it does suffer from multiple personality disorder): “I have always considered myself to be twins separated at birth.”

    I believe “you and me” is the proper form: “I have always considered you and me to be twins separated at birth.”

    Comment by tk. — June 23, 2009 @ 2:02 pm | Reply

  5. “You and myself” is ungainly and should be avoided for that reason if no other. The principle, I think, is that “you and me” is a kind of collective object and therefore the structure should not be in the reflexive form.

    Comment by xensen — June 26, 2009 @ 11:57 am | Reply

  6. Valiant efforts everyone. Xensen and tk, I think you come the closest to my own way of thinking. I’m still searching for someone who can explain this definitively, though!

    Comment by mighty red pen — June 26, 2009 @ 7:22 pm | Reply

  7. I don’t think it’s ungrammatical. MWDEU has many examples of “myself” as the object of a verb, for instance

    …which will reconcile Max Lerner with Felix Frankfurter and myself with God – EB White
    The company was, Miss Hannah More… Mrs. Boscawan, Mrs. Elizabeth Carter, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Dr. Burney, Dr. Johnson, and myself – James Boswell

    Usually, it occurs when the first element in the noun phrase is a proper noun.

    Comment by goofy — June 29, 2009 @ 8:56 am | Reply

  8. Hum. I’m afraid I would dodge the whole thing completely. The same information can be conveyed by suggestion through the scene or the speakers’ personalities. Another alternative might be to create two separate sentences to prevent “you and myself” from creating a mid sentence hiccup. These options are perhaps less than concise, but hiccups trip me more often than longer sentences.

    Comment by Laurie — July 21, 2009 @ 12:27 pm | Reply

  9. sorry about the missing hyphen…

    Comment by Laurie — July 21, 2009 @ 12:28 pm | Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: