How to talk about ‘yourself’ on The Apprentice: reflexive pronouns

After each task on the BBC’s The Apprentice, the two teams come to the boardroom to be grilled by Alan Sugar.

And every week we’re guaranteed to hear the contestants trying to sound clever by using the word myself.

It’s a mistake we encounter in the workplace more and more nowadays.

Perhaps it’s to sound more formal or respectful. Perhaps it’s when we don’t know whether to use I or me. Either way, the misuse of reflexive pronouns is grating for grammar pedants and straight-talkers alike.

So here’s a quick guide to speak both more correctly and normally, and therefore sound less pretentious and more honest.

When to use myself

Use myself when referring back to yourself (ie. when it’s reflexive). It’s when we are both the subject and the object. For example:

  • I’m going to make myself breakfast
  • I cooked it all by myself
  • I promised myself not to burn it again

When not to use myself

Here’s a reminder of subject and object pronouns:

Subject and object pronouns

In normal situations like in the video, we should use I or me, depending on whether we’re the subject or object. If you’re unsure which to use, replace I or me with he/she or him/her, and see which one sounds best. If it’s he/she go with I, and if it’s him/her go with me.

So here’s how the contestants could better impress Baron Sugar:

  • It was myself, Sarah and Sabrina can be either it was Sarah, Sabrina and I or it was Sarah, Sabrina and me. Note with linking verbs like to be, a subject pronoun (in this example, it and I) can correctly be used twice—it’s a subject complement. The latter option (the one with me) is more informal and is not incorrect.
  • Just more because for myself, I wear heels everyday should be just more because for me, I wear heels everyday.
  • It was myself, yes can be it was me, yes, or rather formally, it was I, yes.
  • In in the morning meeting we decided myself, Sean and Rick, we would be the product team and drive up to Birmingham we should use Sean, Rick and I, and
  • The answer to the question “who was the design team?” is not so myself, Kayode and Sarah-Anne, but so Kayode, Sarah-Anne and I, or more informally, so Kayode, Sarah-Anne and me.

Want to read more on reflexive pronouns? Here’s some more thoughts on hypercorrection on The Apprentice from Sarah Townsend.

And here’s a more detailed explanation of linking verbs and subject complements from Grammar Girl.

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