Even savvy writers can wander astray when navigating pronoun usage. We especially struggle when we talk about ourselves
and choose among the nominative case, the objective case, and reflexive
pronouns. Add multiple pronouns to the sentence, and the opportunities
for missteps multiply. Other times, we overcorrect to avoid what we mistakenly believe to be errors. (We probably harbor these beliefs based on
ingrained misunderstandings of the instructions we received in elementary school.) And some people, trying to sound more formal, instead
blunder into a grammar no-man’s land.
Let’s try an experiment. Choose the correct sentence from among the
1. Keep this conversation between you and I.
2. Please send any responses to my paralegal and I.
3. Please call Maria, Jerome, or myself if you have any questions.
I confess: That was a trick. None of the options is correct. Why?
Nominative vs. objective case
Examples #1 and #2 illustrate mistakes in choosing between the nominative and objective cases.
I, we, you, he, she, it, they, and who are nominative-case pronouns. A
nominative-case pronoun serves as the subject of a sentence.
Objective-case pronouns, on the other hand, including me, us, you, him, her, it, them,
and whom, serve as the object of a verb or preposition.
Between is a preposition. After a preposition, you use the objective case
(me), not the nominative case (I). But when a preposition has more than
one object, many people make the mistake illustrated in #1 and #2 and
hypercorrect, using the nominative-case pronoun I instead of the objec-tive-case pronoun me after the preposition.
But why? Probably many of us were traumatized as youths by being
shamed for saying things like “Marti and me went for a run this morning” instead of “Marti and I went for a run this morning,” and
the wrong lesson stuck with us. Instead of recognizing the distinction—in those examples, Marti and I are the subjects of
the sentence, not the objects of a preposition—we absorbed
the incorrect “rule” that and me always represents poor grammar. Thus, we erroneously “correct” the sentence to “between
you and I.” Just remember this: Never use I right after a pronoun. You wouldn’t write “he sent the check to I,” so don’t
write “he mailed the check to my partner and I.”
Example #3 illustrates another common error: misusing reflex-
ive pronouns. Myself is a reflexive pronoun, not a more formal
substitute for I or me. Other reflexive pronouns include him-
self, herself, itself, ourselves, and themselves. Generally, you only
use a reflexive pronoun when the object and the subject of a
sentence are the same. For example:
• I really embarrassed myself with that punctuation error!
• The defendant chose to represent herself.
By contrast, in #3, the subject and object of the sentence are
Susie Salmon is Assistant Director
of Legal Writing and Associate Clinical
Professor of Law at The University of
Arizona, James E. Rogers College of Law.
Before joining Arizona Law, she spent
nine years as a commercial litigator at
large firms in Tucson and Los Angeles.
not the same, so using myself is incorrect.
Reflexive pronouns are always the object
of the sentence, never the subject. Thus, it
is never correct to say “Jerry and myself will
handle the case.” The correct construction
is “Jerry and I,” because Jerry and I are the
actors (or subjects) in the sentence.
You also can use the reflexive pronoun
for emphasis when you repeat the subject or
• I witnessed the crime myself.
• The defendant wanted to try the case
• We have nothing to fear but fear itself.
In talking about yourself, just remember:
( 1) Use I when you are the actor in the sentence; ( 2) use me when you are the object of
the sentence, including after a preposition,
and even when there are multiple objects;
and ( 3) only use myself as the object, and
only if you are also the actor in the sentence.
Finally, learn to embrace the word me.
It’s a perfectly fine pronoun, and it is almost
always the right choice after prepositions.
Don’t fear using it. It’s not less formal. It’s
not poor grammar. It’s often correct.
People sometimes make mistakes not
out of carelessness but because they think
they are using proper grammar. Between
you and me, dear reader, I hope these tips
will allow you to talk about yourself with
confidence. AZ AT
1. You also use the nominative case for a
predicate nominative (a noun or pronoun
that follows a linking verb and refers to
the subject of the sentence). For example,
if someone reaches me on my phone and
asks for “Susie,” I should say “This is she,”
rather than “This is her.” There, she is the
predicate nominative and thus calls for a
nominative-case pronoun. “This is she”
sounds pretty stuffy, so I usually just say,
“This is Susie.” If you want to sound like
a brusque TV lawyer, though, you can just
Me, Myself and I: How To Talk About Yourself