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In an ESL class, a student asked a difficult question about the use of “myself” in the following sentence:

I notice similarities between myself and other people more than differences.

(Speak Out, Upper Intermediate, p. 13, Exercise 11C, Pearson Longman, 2011)

She said that she had been taught in Japan that it should “me” here. And, as a native speaker, I also feel it should be “me,” but then, I am not an ESL expert like the people at Pearson Longman.

To me, the sentence seems to not be a case of an actual reflexive pronoun, such as “I see myself in the mirror,” but to border on hypercorrection such as “come have a drink with my husband and myself.”

However, this structure, whether or not hypercorrection, does seem do have many users. Here are some Google hit numbers.

"similarities between me and"

45K

"similarities between myself and"

17K

What explanation can I provide? Are both her previously learned rules and my native intuition incorrect? Or is something odd about the sentence from Pearson Longman? Or are all of these views correct?

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A reasonable approach to answering your question is to substitute both the regular and reflexive forms of other pronouns in the specimen sentence to see if a pattern of acceptability emerges:

One notices similarities between oneself and other people more than differences.

*One notices similarities between one and other people more than differences.


She notices similarities between herself and other people more than differences.

*She notices similarities between her and other people more than differences.


It notices similarities between itself and other [entities] more than differences.

*It notices similarities between it and other [entities] more than differences.


We notice similarities between ourselves and other people more than differences.

*We notice similarities between us and other people more than differences.


You notice similarities between yourself and other people more than differences.

*You notice similarities between you and other people more than differences.


They notice similarities between themselves and other people more than differences.

*They notice similarities between them and other people more than differences.

In all these cases, the reflexive form of the pronoun (which in this kind of construction I think could more accurately be described as the emphatic form) strikes me as sounding much more natural than the non-emphatic form, particularly in the case of 'oneself/one'.

By analogy, 'myself' is preferable to 'me' (and it also intuitively sounds more natural to my ear).

  • Erik Kowal - Thank you very much for that clear and detailed explanation! Those patterns really help. – curious-proofreader Mar 12 '15 at 8:08
  • Any comments on which of "between others and mysel" or "between others and me" might be more preferable/common (relative to each other or to the OP-cited constructions)? – Brian Hitchcock Mar 12 '15 at 9:19
  • 'She notices similarities between myself and other people more than differences' only sounds non-pretentious when 'myself' (which is unequivocally emphatic rather than reflexive here) is licensed by previous context (Most people like to point out my eccentricities. But not Sue, bless her....) – Edwin Ashworth Mar 13 '15 at 11:52
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    I don't agree with the grammaticality judgements you've made here :( – Araucaria Mar 14 '15 at 22:17
  • It might be helpful if some vetted grammar sources were used to backup the opinions and evaluations given in this post. – F.E. Mar 14 '15 at 22:30
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Since "google" is not the reasonable source. I checked the BNC (British National Corpus), and I have found that:

between me is used 96 times

between myself is used 23 times

I could not find the constructions similarities between me and similarities between myself there, however, I found the expresions with the antonym of similarities - differences. There is only one sentence with differences between myself and:

...I could no longer ignore the differences between myself and my companions...

and 6 occurrences of difference between me and

...Yeah, but come on there should be a bloody difference between me and her!...

Both are acceptable but between me is a more frequent choice.

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    That is not an adequate test, since there are many situations in which 'between me' is used that are not analogous to the construction used to make a comparison which is presented in the specimen sentence. Take this non-similar simple description as an example: "Only ten miles now remained between me and the finish line". You would need to analyse the individual occurrences in the corpus case-by-case to be able to make a proper determination. – Erik Kowal Mar 12 '15 at 5:17
  • Thank you, Erik for your point. I analyzed these few cases as well. – Darius Miliauskas Mar 12 '15 at 5:35
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Depends on your definition of acceptable. In recent years, the use of myself instead of me has become rampant in American English. Personally, I find it disturbing, but there are legions of people out there doing it.

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