To “be” or not to “be”… that is the question

August 8, 2013


Grammar is around us everywhere, whether we like it or not. It’s in our emails, business reports, school work and our conversations. Some people say that I’m a fanatic with grammar. I agree. Now I don’t profess to be an English Major by any means, but bad use of simple grammar does rub me the wrong way.


I thought I would offer some help in determining the right word(s) or phrase to use in a given situation, and if nothing else, it may help you in your day-to-day writing and conversation with others. Some of the examples used here are what I actually read and hear on a regular basis.


The use of myself versus me. Myself, himself, herself or themselves is used when the “doer” is also the “doee”, hence the word “self”.

  • He is riding the bike by himself. “He” and “himself” refer to the same person riding the bike.

  • Please send the documents to myself for filing. The person being requested to send the documents is not the same person doing the filing; therefore “myself” should be “me”.

  • It’s a surprise. Keep the secret to yourselves. The people being requested to keep the secret are the ones keeping the secret. Same people, therefore this sentence is correct.

The use of I versus me. I won’t bore you with theory. Instead, try this trick. When you say the following sentences, remove the second person and see if the sentence makes sense.

  • The boys and me are going to the pub. Do you say “Me is going to the pub”? No, therefore it’s “the boys and I”.

  • Him and her are dating. “Him is dating”? It should be “He and she are dating”.

  • Us girls are going out to the mall. It should be “We”.

  • My mom is giving Rob and I a ride home. “Mom is giving I a ride”? In this case, “I” should be “me”.

Don’t worry about subjects, objects and verbs. Try the simple test and before long, you’ll get the hang of it.


Here are a few common words that sound the same or similar, but are used incorrectly.

  • Accept: to take ownership of something. I accept your proposal.

  • Except: excluding. Quite frequently I see, Do you except this meeting on Mary’s behalf? This should be “accept”.

  • You’re: a contraction for “you are”.

  • Your: belonging to you. This is not “you are”.

  • Been: the past tense of “to be”, often following has or have.

  • Being: current tense of “to be”, e.g. I am being chased by dogs.

Being is also used for “human being”. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve seen “human been” in correspondence – even in a medical pamphlet.

  • There: the beginning of a sentence, or location, as in “over there”.

  • They’re: a contraction for “they are”.

  • Their: belonging to them.

I will spare you further lessons. I hope this has helped you for your next writing project; and has been less painful than imagining a tight-bunned school teacher from grade school.



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