Word Choice – You Versus Yourself

Pat’s question: “Could you please discuss the grammatical misuse of the word ‘yourself.’ For example, I have heard people answer the question ‘How are you?’ by saying ‘Fine. And yourself?’ Shouldn’t it be ‘Fine. And you?’ ”

BizwritingTip response: You are correct. “Yourself” is a reflexive pronoun. Reflexive pronouns are those that end in –self or –selves. (Myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, themselves, and ourselves are all reflexive pronouns.) There are two reasons for using them.

First, use them when the action expressed by the verb is directed back to the subject.

I taught myself how to use the new software package.
They found themselves in the middle of a major disagreement.
We should try to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes.

The second reason for using reflexive pronouns is for emphasis. Writers often remove them as they appear redundant. But there is nothing wrong with inserting them when you want to be emphatic.

You should complete the form yourself.
I myself am confused.
We want to talk to the manager ourselves.

To conclude, polite and grammatically correct people — when asked the question — would say “Fine. And you?”

This rule also applies to me, myself and I.