It’s up to myself

in Back to basics

As you might expect, I’m a bit of a stickler for language. And one of my pet hates is sentences like the following:

It’s up to myself
At a time to suit yourselves

I think I was probably guilty of using reflexive pronouns (yourself, myself, ourselves etc) in my younger days and I can see why. They sound a bit more formal and impressive, don’t they? But, depending on how much of a stickler you are, they’re at best regarded as ‘non-standard usage’ and at worst as just plain wrong.

So here’s a guide to when to use reflexive pronouns and when to, well, not.

Reflexive pronouns are used when the subject and direct object of the sentence are the same (bear with me).

What this means in practice is that you only use myself / yourself / ourselves etc when you’ve previously used (or implied use of) I / you / we etc earlier on in the sentence.


I enjoyed myself
Please help yourself
We’ll let ourselves in

The only other time it’s appropriate is if you want to use it for emphasis:

I’ll do it myself
Why don’t you do it yourself?

(i.e. you could equally say “I’ll do it” or “Why don’t you do it?” but the feeling  – in these cases, slight irritation – would be slightly different.)

So to go back to the original examples, you’d be better off saying:

It’s up to me
At a time to suit you

For your readers who are not aware of (or don’t care about) reflexive pronouns, the sentences sound less formal (almost always a good thing). And for your readers who do know (and care) about reflexive pronouns, the sentences won’t have made them wince. A win-win situation, wouldn’t you say?

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