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In the comments on this answer from another question, a discussion was started regarding the way native speakers use reflexive pronouns to sound "more intellectual" (for example: "I myself have found in this research...").

I know it isn't correct in standard English, but I wonder if it has a literary history. Where does this come from? Has it been around for long? (All of my preliminary research has shown mostly anecdotal results, and I'm looking for actual data if it's available.)


An alternate hypothesis posited that really it's the repetition ("I myself", "you yourself", etc.) that is desired to give the appearance of intellectualism, and the (improper) use of reflexive pronouns may merely be a means to achieve that goal. Is the use of repetition shown more frequently in "intellectual" speech than just through improper reflexive pronouns?


(As an aside, I'd love to see anecdotes in the comments about whether this varies dramatically by region or other demographic grouping. I'm in the US, so my experiences are narrow.)

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    I work in corporate retail, and there are a lot of people who end emails with "if you have any further questions, please call [or email] myself." Drives me nuts! – Justin Jul 7 '16 at 20:57
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    There's nothing incorrect about this emphatic use; it's been around for at least 1100 years, and in fact seems to antedate the reflexive use by three hundred years or so. You may be thinking of object uses, like that instanced by Justin, which are different matter. – StoneyB Jul 7 '16 at 21:05
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    Interesting - I haven't come across this as a way to sound more intellectual as much as I've seen the imaginary-friends-who-agree-with-me 'We' that some folks use to try to give their opinions more credibility. I don't think it would flag as 'incorrect' to me, but I myself have used it on occasions where I want to emphasize that it was I in fact that did it, so I may be biased ;) – ColleenV Jul 7 '16 at 21:10
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    I myself use this construction for emphasis (not to create the illusion that I'm smart). – MetaEd Jul 7 '16 at 21:30
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    Possible duplicate of Is it correct to say “I myself”? – Edwin Ashworth Jul 7 '16 at 23:03
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Starting a sentence with the words "I myself have found" is not grammatically incorrect.

From The Cambridge Dictionary:

Reflexive pronouns for emphasis

We can use reflexive pronouns for emphasis:

The director of the company wrote to us himself to apologise for the dreadful service. (or The director of the company himself wrote to us to apologise for the dreadful service.)

We don’t use reflexive pronouns on their own as the subject of a clause, but we can use them with a noun or pronoun to emphasise the subject:

Parents and teachers always pass on to children what they themselves have been told, and this has been going on for hundreds, or even thousands of years.

(This is about halfway down the page.)

While the use of a reflexive pronoun as an intensifier may be grammatically correct, however, excessive use of intensifiers leads to bad writing. In particular, pretentious speakers might put an unnecessary emphasis on their own role in whatever they are describing as a way to make themselves sound more important.

  • This is interesting to me, as I had always been taught that (from a prescriptivist perspective) it was grammatically incorrect to use this construction. So does "I myself" become a complex noun phrase then? – Pierce Darragh Jul 7 '16 at 21:33
  • Additionally: it is still wrong to say, for example, "Turn the form in to myself" or "Myself went walking yesterday", right? Even though you could say (I suppose) "Turn the form in to me myself" or "I myself went walking yesterday"? – Pierce Darragh Jul 7 '16 at 21:34
  • The first two are still wrong (unless the subject of "turn the form in" is also "I", for example in a "to do" list). The other two seem technically grammatically correct, but could still be bad style; I have failed to think of any situation that justifies the intensification in "Turn the form in to me myself", and whether the last example is really OK would depend on context. – David K Jul 7 '16 at 22:27

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