What’s the actual meaning of the expression “I will excuse myself ”?

I’ve thought of it as kind of a joking expression about doing something that would actually require the excuse of someone else in a more formal situation, but I figure that need not actually be the case.

  • Please could you supply more context? Perhaps an example dialogue where the phrase is used? – Matt E. Эллен Jul 24 '12 at 13:34
  • The most obvious use I can think of is when one is leaving a group, or in the middle of a conversation. – Dolda2000 Jul 24 '12 at 13:35
  • That particular phrasing always makes me think you are removing yourself from a contentious situation or discussion in a polite manner with perhaps an implication others should do so also. – Mark Schultheiss Jul 24 '12 at 19:48

No, it's not meant as a joke at all.

The phrase " to excuse oneself" refers to the act of saying "Excuse me" and leaving.

Ex. I excused myself and stepped out of the room.

Ex. "If anyone has to leave early, please feel free to excuse yourself."

In direct speech, it's an expression used to be polite when you leave early.

Ex. "I'm not feeling so good today so I'll (have to) excuse myself from the meeting."

  • Exactly. OED sense 7b to excuse oneself - to ask permission or apologize before leaving. – FumbleFingers Jul 24 '12 at 23:00
  • I think the OP's wondering about "Excuse me" vs. "I will excuse myself." – Cool Elf Jul 25 '12 at 1:57
  • I think OP just isn't a native speaker, so he thinks the reflexive form is odd. Of course it's not - though it's far more common to say "I must excuse myself", rather than "I will excuse myself". Note that there's no special meaning implied by "will" over "must", in that context. – FumbleFingers Jul 25 '12 at 2:06

Nothing joking in this. Excuse being transitive, takes two persons.

The one being 'excused' is 'myself' here. The one excusing is the person being addressed.

One can read this as: 'If you may so permit, I will consider myself excused (by you).'

  • That doesn't sound right to me. Doesn't the reflexivity of "myself" mean that it is me who is doing the excusing, rather than the person being addressed? I mean, even without the reflexivity, the subject is explicitly "I". – Dolda2000 Jul 24 '12 at 13:40
  • @Dolda2000 No, it is not reflexive, it is transitive. – Kris Jul 24 '12 at 13:41
  • "Excuse" might be transitive, but "myself" is reflexive. – Dolda2000 Jul 24 '12 at 13:42
  • @Dolda2000 'Myself' being not a verb, it cannot be reflexive or transitive. You need to think a bit harder: "I will do it myself." does not mean anything reflexive, but just that the "I" is stressed. On the other hand, "I will reward myself." would have a reflexive implication on the verb 'reward'. – Kris Jul 24 '12 at 13:46
  • @Kris How is "I excuse myself" different in construction or analysis from "I reward myself"? – Andrew Leach Jul 24 '12 at 14:09

When you ask someone to excuse you as you leave a group or in the middle of a conversation, you're asking the other person or people "to give [you] permission to leave; to release [you]". (Definition 5.)

  • Is that in someway different from my answer, just for clarification? – Kris Jul 24 '12 at 13:48

The issue is that usually, if you are leaving a group, you seek the permission of the others in the group first. Obviously, this is just a polite fiction; you aren't really asking their permission, just giving them the opportunity to say goodbye or make any other parting remarks. You do, however, typically say, "Excuse me" or "If you'll excuse me" or something like that.

If the group is large, for each departing person to go through this routine is more disruptive than it's worth. Therefore a person "excuses himself": he doesn't even pretend to seek permission, and just slips away.

Therefore, actually saying "I will excuse myself" when you're in a group of only two or three is slightly aggressive. You're hinting that you're bored or uncomfortable or have some other practical reason for not choosing the more polite exit.

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