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Listen to yourself, but don’t overuse the self

There is a television game host who is nice looking, very well groomed and has a pleasing sense of humor. However, it is bothersome that he begins every show by saying the contestants are all there to win "theirself" a bunch of money.

The word does not exist! The word “their” is plural, and “self” is singular. In addition, “their” is never used with “selves.”

Another “self” pronoun many people struggle to use correctly is “myself.” Is it ego that prompts many to use “self” so often? It should be used only when that “self” is being acted upon by the same person:

• I tripped myself.

• Rudy confused himself.

• The two men made themselves look like fools.

Notice that I, Rudy and the two men are taking action upon themselves.

Do not use “self” pronouns when someone else is taking the action:

• The boss called Bob and myself into the office.

• It was late when Gary and myself paused to look at the monument.

• Did you want the children and myself to come to dinner?

In all three of these, the “myself” is receiving action from someone else. The correct construction would have been:

• The boss called Bob and me.

• Gary and I paused.

• Did you want the children and me to come to dinner?

Take out “boss,” “Gary” and the “children,” and those choices will sound much better than the “self” pronouns in the previous three sentences. Just say to yourself:

• The boss called me.

• I paused.

• Did you want me?

See how much better each of those sounds? Believe your ear.

— Sandi Ekberg taught high school English in Medford for 30 years, with a special interest in vocabulary, grammar and usage. If you have grammar questions you would like answered, email her at ifixgrammar@charter.net