Writing for Business

Jun 6 2012   12:12PM GMT

Personal pronouns

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore


Which is correct?

The number of security holes found during the penetration test left _________ shaken.

a. the CSO and me

b. the CSO and I

c. the CSO and myself

Answer: a


As a subject, the correct personal pronoun is me. The old trick is to take the other person out of the sentence. Most people will quickly realize that “The number of security holes found left I shaken” is not correct. Nevertheless, there’s some perception that I is the correct pronoun to use when you talk about someone else and yourself. Wrong. As the subject (the doer) in a sentence, the correct personal pronoun is I; as a subject (the one done to), it’s me. (Unless you are both subject and object, as I’ll explain below.)

And then there’s the unsuccessful dodge of thinking that you can just replace either I or me with myself. That doesn’t work either — you can only refer to yourself AS yourself reflexively, when the subject and object (the doer and the one done to) are the same individual. As in “I embarrass myself when I use the wrong personal pronoun.”

Paul Brians attributes the error  (along with the incorrect use of I) to a reluctance to use the word me:

Let’s see if we can apply some common sense here. The misuse of “I” and “myself” for “me” is caused by nervousness about “me.” Educated people know that “Jim and me are goin’ down to slop the hogs,” is not elegant speech, not “correct.”  > Read on

See more on the myself issue here and here. Oh and lots more here. I know I’m fighting a losing battle — business people don’t seem to be able to grasp the fact that this error makes them look stupid. Nevertheless, while still there is breath in my body, I must not allow myself to stop fighting.

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

1  Comment on this Post

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  • sridharneelakantaatgmailcom
    Good one Ivy. I am very particular about this mistake in others. I make it a point to use "me" or "I" in their respective places. I try to correct others as much as I can. By the way, I would like to point out an error in what you have written. The first sentence reads "As a subject, the correct personal pronoun is me". It should have started as  "As an object.....". The CSO and me are objects here ...not subjects. 

    Same error in the sentence "As the subject (the doer) in a sentence, the correct personal pronoun is I; as a subject (the one done to), it’s me." The second mention of "subject"  should have been "object". The noun that is done to is "object". 

    Thanks much
    60 pointsBadges:

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