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When is it correct to use “yourself” and “myself” (versus “you” and “me”)?

According to Google Ngram, "I am myself" is more common that "I am I", but which is correct?

Also, the verb "to be" is intransitive. That means a subject must follow the verb. So does this mean "I am I" is more grammatical?

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marked as duplicate by MετάEd, Matt Эллен, tchrist, Mitch, Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Oct 17 '12 at 0:58

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"I am I" is SVS, which doesn't make any sense in English as far as I know. –  simchona May 26 '12 at 1:19
    
What do you mean by "correct"? –  Neil Coffey May 26 '12 at 1:24
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You don't know how hard it was not to create a bogus id called "Popeye" and reply to this question. –  JeffSahol May 26 '12 at 1:36
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♬ I am I, Don Quijote, the Lord of La Mancha! My destiny calls and I go! ♬ –  tchrist May 26 '12 at 1:47
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Why would "I am myself" be used more? The verb "to be" is intransitive. That means a subject pronoun must follow the verb. –  Victor May 26 '12 at 16:01

2 Answers 2

The word "myself" should be used when the speaker is both the subject and the object. So I'd consider "I am myself" as the correct option here.

This of course is subject to all the usual provisos about "no single correct answer", "descriptive vs prescriptive", and "correct for my dialect" and so on. But it certainly explains why "I am myself" has a higher Ngram score.

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“You are yourself” and “he’s not himself” seem perfectly normal, so I should think “I am myself” would follow. On the other hand, “he’s not him” means something else entirely, as those don’t have the same antecedent. –  tchrist May 26 '12 at 1:50
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I am he that will be the key to your undoing. –  Jim May 26 '12 at 2:01
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@Jim You’re a that not a who? Sounds grimly depersonalizing to me. Wait, is this Eliza? :) –  tchrist May 26 '12 at 3:44
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@NeilCoffey It’s interesting that English (“It’s me. I’m myself.”) works like French in this (“C’est moi”, “C’est lui”) rather than Spanish (and Latin), which take a nominative pronoun; “Who’s over there? It’s him.” would answer with “Es él” in Spanish. You wouldn’t even think of using an object pronoun. On the other hand, for “between”, French takes object pronouns but Spanish (strangely?) takes subject pronouns. FR “entre toi et moi” vs ES “entre tú y yo”. I often wonder whether there’s more to the “incorrect” but often-heard English “between you and I” than meets the ahem eye. –  tchrist May 26 '12 at 3:50
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Victor - that's looking at things the wrong way round. You might argue that "be" is a normal intransitive verb if native speakers necessarily followed it with a subject pronoun. But they don't... –  Neil Coffey May 26 '12 at 20:20

Unless I am, I think, missing something completely, this is a classic case where the Ngram is the wrong tool for the job.

"I am myself" sounds rather natural, while "I am I" sounds oddly unfamiliar. As such, I'd expect "I am myself" to completely trounce "I am I", instead of being relatively close like the Ngram shows:

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But this is where the data ought to be investigated further. By using the links on the bottom, one can see that "I am myself" is found in several works, in a very natural-sounding context:

enter image description here

Whereas "I am I", more often than not, is the result of a pure coincidence, such as when one sentence or clause ends with "I am", and the next begins with "I":

enter image description here

To the O.P.: everything depends on context. That said, most of the time, when you are referring to yourself, you would probably say "I am myself," and not "I am I."

And be very careful with how you use Ngrams. I am myself very leery about looking at the lines, and leaving it at that.

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Alas that I have but one vote to give! –  tchrist May 26 '12 at 6:07
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+1 for the crucial point that 'I am I' can occur in contexts which the OP might not have envisaged. In practice, I think many of us might say 'I am who I am' rather than either of the alternatives. Another point to remember with nGrams is that it covers only printed books. No magazines, no newspapers and, above all, no speech. –  Barrie England May 26 '12 at 6:59
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If I wanted to make a brief self-reference, I'd probably either say "I am me" or "I am who I am", but usually there's more to it than that. If I'm talking about not giving into peer pressure, I might expand it some: "I have to stay true to myself." The phrase "I am myself" is not usually used all by itself, but as a way to add a personal emphasis. "I am a fan of the opera" and "I am myself a fan of the opera" essentially mean the same thing, but the second might be heard in a conversation, just after someone first said, "I really like opera." It's a way to give the expression a "me too" tone. –  J.R. May 26 '12 at 17:01
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Only the last of your "I am myself" quotes actually asserts identity (and I'm not sure a French existentialist is a good example of English style). The Augustine is a simple shortening of "I am, myself, blamed"; the others are similar. (I think this is a good answer, but your data doesn't support it properly.) –  TimLymington May 26 '12 at 22:44
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@Tim: I concur completely. The main aim of my answer was to show how Ngrams, when not used properly, are a misleading way to determine the "right" way of saying something. –  J.R. May 27 '12 at 0:13

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