English learners and native English speakers alike have trouble knowing when to use “I”, “me” or “myself”. The rules themselves are simple: “I” is a subject pronoun, “me” is an object pronoun and “myself” is a reflexive pronoun. Use the subject pronoun “I” when the speaker is performing the action. Use the object pronoun “me” when the speaker is receiving the action. Use “myself” when the subject and object are the same.
However, there are some very common mistakes we want to help you correct and we’re going to show you some examples when to use “me”, “I” or “myself” to make sure you get this grammar right every time.
- The subject pronoun I
- The object pronoun me
- Common mistakes with I and me
- The reflexive pronoun myself
- Common mistakes with myself
The subject pronoun I
“I” is a subject pronoun. A subject pronoun performs the action in a sentence. This is the most important point to remember when you’re wondering whether to use “I” or “me”. Subject pronouns replace nouns in sentences. Other subject pronouns are “you”, “he”, “she”, “it”, “we” and “they”. Note that “I” is always capitalized as a subject pronoun.
- I would rather go home.
- I adore breezy clifftop walks in the summer.
The object pronoun me
“Me” is an object pronoun. Like “I”, “me” refers to a first-person singular subject. However, unlike “I”, and unlike any subject pronoun, object pronouns receive the action in a sentence. Again, this is a really important thing to remember when you’re not sure if you should write “I” or “me”. Other object pronouns are “you”, “him”, “her”, “it”, “us” and “them”.
- Helen gave me a ride home.
- You told me not to tell anyone!
Common mistakes with I and me
You will hear lots of people, including native English speakers, making mistakes with the pronouns “I” and “me”. It usually happens when there is more than one object in a sentence. Look at this example and decide why it’s incorrect.
- Peggy told Tom and I to sit down.
Try taking Tom out of the sentence:
- Peggy told I to sit down.
Most people will be able to tell that’s an incorrect sentence. The subject pronoun “I” shouldn’t be in this sentence as it’s not performing the action, Peggy is. So, “I” should be replaced by “me”.
- Peggy told Tom and me to sit down.
You might also hear people say:
- Me and Tom are going to the movies later.
This sentence has the opposite problem to the one above. Now the object pronoun “me” is trying to perform an action; remember, this is grammatically impossible! Try taking Tom out again.
- Me is going to the movies later.
This is obviously not right. “Me” should be replaced by our action pronoun, “I”.
- Tom and I are going to the movies later. (Correct)
The reflexive pronoun myself
When the subject and the object of a verb are the same, we use a reflexive pronoun as the object. Reflexive pronouns always end in -self or -selves, and “myself” is the first-person singular reflexive pronoun. Other reflexive pronouns are “yourself”, “himself”, “herself”, “itself”, “ourselves”, “yourselves” and “themselves”. If you use “myself” in a sentence, you should have “I” as the subject pronoun. The two go together like peanut butter and jelly.
- Every morning, I make myself a cup of coffee and read the news.
- I cut myself shaving last night.
Common mistakes with myself
The most common mistake people make with the reflexive pronoun “myself” is using it too much, most often in business lingo. Native speakers will very often say things like this:
- Myself and Ron will be accepting proposals throughout the week.
Remember our rule about “I” and “myself” always appearing in sentences together? “I” isn’t in that sentence, so “myself” certainly shouldn’t be. Let’s take Ron out and see how the sentence looks:
- Myself will be accepting proposals throughout the week.
Yes, this is wrong!
The sentence should start with a subject pronoun here, doing an action. Let’s put Ron back in and correct the sentence:
- Ron and I will be accepting proposals throughout the week. (Correct)
Another common error is when “myself” is used as an object pronoun.
- You can call Sue or myself any time.
Let’s look at the sentence without Sue to see the mistake clearly:
- You can call myself any time.
You can see that this should be an object pronoun, as the subject and object are not the same.
- You can call Sue or me any time. (Correct)
Knowing when to use me, myself and I
Now you should be confident about when to use “I” or “me” in a sentence, and when “myself” should appear. Remember, the subject pronoun “I” performs an action. The object pronoun “me” receives an action done by a different subject. And, the reflexive pronoun “myself” is only used when the subject “I” is the same as the object, “myself”. Practice using these pronouns in sentences – and be ready to correct any native English speakers when they make mistakes!
Laura is a freelance writer and was an ESL teacher for eight years. She was born in the UK and has lived in Australia and Poland, where she writes blogs for Lingoda about everything from grammar to dating English speakers. She’s definitely better at the first one. She loves travelling and that’s the other major topic that she writes on. Laura likes pilates and cycling, but when she’s feeling lazy she can be found curled up watching Netflix. She’s currently learning Polish, and her battle with that mystifying language has given her huge empathy for anyone struggling to learn English. Find out more about her work in her portfolio.