Questions from my learners – 2

Ask the wise old owl

Wise Old Owl

These are short posts in which I will answer two questions that my learners have asked me. The contents list will build up as I add more questions. There is no easy way to sort and categorise them, so I will list other questions in the series in alphabetical order at the end of the post.

Why do you keep correcting me when I write “myself”?

The word “myself”, which is a reflexive pronoun, is often misused.

It can be used to highlight the fact that you did something on your own or that YOU did it, not someone else.

I baked the cake = a fact about who baked the cake.
I baked the cake myself = I’m proud of it. I didn’t have any help! I didn’t go to the shop and buy it.

I’ll do it = a fact
I’ll do it myself = either I want to prove that I can do it on my own, or, if said in an angry voice, I’m tired of asking you to help so I’ll do it on my own.

It’s also used in sentences where you did something to yourself:
I hurt myself = you did the action and you felt the result.
If someone else hurt you, you’d have to say
He/she hurt ME
because the sentence didn’t start with “I” and the other person was doing the action.

I’m proud of “myself”
My parents were proud of “me”.

Most problems with this word seem to arise when other people are involved in the sentence. A helpful tip is to take away the other people and see whether the sentence still makes sense.

You can’t say:
Myself went on holiday
Because this doesn’t make sense. It should be “I went on holiday”.
Therefore you can’t say “Myself and my boyfriend went on holiday” or “my boyfriend and myself went on holiday”. It has to be “My boyfriend and I went on holiday” or “I went on holiday with my boyfriend”.

Please book the tickets for my boss and ME.
You can’t say “for my boss and myself” because you are asking someone to do something and therefore they will be doing the action, not you.
You can’t say “for my boss and I” either, because “please book the tickets for I” doesn’t make sense.

Affect or effect?

Native speakers get this one wrong all the time.

A simple rule is that affect is usually a verb
How will this decision affect our colleagues?
Affect = to influence or make a difference to something or someone.

Effect is usually a noun
The tornado had a devastating effect on the city.
Effect = a result or influence.

Effect also has another meaning where it can be used as a verb but this is not common and it is usually only seen in formal writing.


Other questions in this series

If you want to read the rest of the articles in this series, go to the questions article.

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