English use of Reflexive pronouns

“When is the word myself used?”

The word myself is known as a reflexive pronoun. Firstly, when should we not use the word?

Myself should not be used as a substitute for the personal object pronoun me. This is a common mistake, as in the following example:
They gave presents to my brother and myself.

The correct form is:
They gave presents to my brother and me.

So, when should you use the word? The golden rule is that you should only use myself if the word I comes before it in the same sentence. When this is the case, the word is used in the following situations:

Firstly, when the subject and object of the sentence are the same:
I know myself.
I saw myself in the mirror.

Secondly, when you want to emphasise, or call more attention to the subject of the sentence:
I did the job myself. (Nobody helped me).
I ate all the cake myself. (Nobody else ate any).

The use of the other reflexive pronouns yourself, himself, herself, ourselves, yourselves and themselves in relation to their subject and object pronouns is the same.

English use of Pronouns

“When is the word myself used?”

The word myself is known as a reflexive pronoun. Firstly, when should we not use the word?

Myself should not be used as a substitute for the personal object pronoun me. This is a common mistake, as in the following example:
They gave presents to my brother and myself.

The correct form is:
They gave presents to my brother and me.

So, when should you use the word? The golden rule is that you should only use myself if the word I comes before it in the same sentence. When this is the case, the word is used in the following situations:

Firstly, when the subject and object of the sentence are the same:
I know myself.
I saw myself in the mirror.

Secondly, when you want to emphasise, or call more attention to the subject of the sentence:
I did the job myself. (Nobody helped me).
I ate all the cake myself. (Nobody else ate any).

The use of the other reflexive pronouns yourself, himself, herself, ourselves, yourselves and themselves in relation to their subject and object pronouns is the same.

English use of Countable and uncountable nouns

Briefly, the difference countable and uncountable nouns can be explained as follows:

Countable nouns are things we can count, and have both singular and plural forms:

A boy; two boys; a car; two cars

You can use a/an before countable nouns.

Uncountable nouns are things that we cannot count. They do not have a plural form:

Air, sand, ice, wisdom (NOT airs, sands, ices, wisdoms).

You cannot use a/an before an uncountable noun. Instead, you can use a measurement and the word of:
A breath of air
A grain of sand
A block of ice
A lot of wisdom

Uncountable nouns are followed by the singular form of the verb:
The air is clean.
The sand feels hot.
This coffee tastes horrible.

English use of Compound nouns

While there are different ways that compound nouns can be formed (using adjectives, prepositions, apostrophes, etc.), we are going to concentrate here on the noun + noun form:

bed + room = bedroom; police + officer = police officer, etc.

There are three different ways to form this type of compound noun:

“the closed form, in which the words are melded together, such as firefly …keyboard …notebook;

the hyphenated form, such as sky-scraper … ski-boot … girl-friend;

and the open form, such as post office … history book … mineral water.”

Just exactly how and why these three forms exist is not exactly clear, but it seems likely that the process will begin with two words, become hyphenated after a time, and then eventually end up as just one word. It is curious that even good dictionaries sometimes disagree with how compound nouns should be spelt!

In these noun + noun structures, the first noun behaves similarly to an adjective, in that it describes or modifies the second noun:

A car park is a place for parking cars;
A history book is a book of history.

Another issue to consider is pronunciation. Most noun + noun structures have the main stress on the first word:

post office; car park; fruit juice.

There are, however, quite a few exceptions to this rule:

meat pie; garden table.

This type of compound noun is commonly used to classify particular types of things, and especially for well-known “classes” of things:

Compare a maths book; a geography book; a physics book, which are all books commonly found in schools, to a book about pollution, NOT a pollution book.

We have provided a very basic explanation of this use of compound nouns, an area of grammar that many people consider to be amongst the most difficult.

English use of Collective nouns

A collective noun is a noun that denotes a collection of persons or things regarded as a unit.

Usage Note: In American usage, a collective noun takes a singular verb when it refers to the collection considered as a whole, as in:

The family was united on this question.
The enemy is suing for peace.

It takes a plural verb when it refers to the members of the group considered as individuals, as in:

My family are always fighting among themselves.
The enemy were showing up in groups of three or four to turn in their weapons.

In British usage, however, collective nouns are more often treated as plurals:

The government have not announced a new policy.
The team are playing in the test matches next week.

A collective noun should not be treated as both singular and plural in the same construction; thus:

The family is determined to press its (not their) claim.

Among the common collective nouns are:

committee
clergy
company
enemy
group
family
flock
public
team

Yourdictionary.com

Swan (Practical English Usage, New Edition, Oxford University Press, 1997) elaborates on this singular/plural usage, and disagrees about treating collective nouns as both singular and plural in the same construction:

“In British English, singular words like family, team, government, which refer to groups of people, can be used with either singular or plural verbs and pronouns.

This team is/are going to lose.

Plural forms are common when the group is considered as a collection of people doing personal things like deciding, hoping or wanting; and in these cases we use who, not which, as a relative pronoun. Singular forms (with which as a relative pronoun) are more common when the group is seen as an impersonal unit. Compare:

My family have decided to move to Nottingham. They think it’s a better place to live.
The average British family has 3.6 members. It is smaller and richer than 50 years ago.

The government, who are hoping to ease export restrictions soon, …
The government, which is elected by a simple majority, …

My firm are wonderful. They do all they can for me.
My firm was founded in the 18th century.

When a group noun is used with a singular determiner (e.g. a/an, each, every, this, that), singular verbs and pronouns are normal. Compare:

The team are full of enthusiasm.
A team which is full of enthusiasm has a better chance of winning.

Sometimes singular and plural forms are mixed:

The group gave its first concert in June and they are already booked up for the next six months.

Examples of group nouns which can be used with both singular and plural verbs in British English:

bank
the BBC
choir
class
club
committee
England (e.g. the football team)
family
firm
government
jury
ministry
orchestra
party
public
school
staff
team
union

In American English singular verbs are normally used with most of these nouns in all cases (though family can have a plural verb). Plural pronouns can be used:

The team is in Detroit this weekend. They have a good chance of winning.”

Use of Compound nouns in english

While there are different ways that compound nouns can be formed (using adjectives, prepositions, apostrophes, etc.), we are going to concentrate here on the noun + noun form:

bed + room = bedroom; police + officer = police officer, etc.

There are three different ways to form this type of compound noun:

“the closed form, in which the words are melded together, such as firefly …keyboard …notebook;

the hyphenated form, such as sky-scraper … ski-boot … girl-friend;

and the open form, such as post office … history book … mineral water.”

Just exactly how and why these three forms exist is not exactly clear, but it seems likely that the process will begin with two words, become hyphenated after a time, and then eventually end up as just one word. It is curious that even good dictionaries sometimes disagree with how compound nouns should be spelt!

In these noun + noun structures, the first noun behaves similarly to an adjective, in that it describes or modifies the second noun:

A car park is a place for parking cars;
A history book is a book of history.

Another issue to consider is pronunciation. Most noun + noun structures have the main stress on the first word:

post office; car park; fruit juice.

There are, however, quite a few exceptions to this rule:

meat pie; garden table.

This type of compound noun is commonly used to classify particular types of things, and especially for well-known “classes” of things:

Compare a maths book; a geography book; a physics book, which are all books commonly found in schools, to a book about pollution, NOT a pollution book.

We have provided a very basic explanation of this use of compound nouns, an area of grammar that many people consider to be amongst the most difficult.

Use of Collective nouns in English

A collective noun is a noun that denotes a collection of persons or things regarded as a unit.

Usage Note: In American usage, a collective noun takes a singular verb when it refers to the collection considered as a whole, as in:

The family was united on this question.
The enemy is suing for peace.

It takes a plural verb when it refers to the members of the group considered as individuals, as in:

My family are always fighting among themselves.
The enemy were showing up in groups of three or four to turn in their weapons.

In British usage, however, collective nouns are more often treated as plurals:

The government have not announced a new policy.
The team are playing in the test matches next week.

A collective noun should not be treated as both singular and plural in the same construction; thus:

The family is determined to press its (not their) claim.

Among the common collective nouns are:

committee
clergy
company
enemy
group
family
flock
public
team

Yourdictionary.com

Swan (Practical English Usage, New Edition, Oxford University Press, 1997) elaborates on this singular/plural usage, and disagrees about treating collective nouns as both singular and plural in the same construction:

“In British English, singular words like family, team, government, which refer to groups of people, can be used with either singular or plural verbs and pronouns.

This team is/are going to lose.

Plural forms are common when the group is considered as a collection of people doing personal things like deciding, hoping or wanting; and in these cases we use who, not which, as a relative pronoun. Singular forms (with which as a relative pronoun) are more common when the group is seen as an impersonal unit. Compare:

My family have decided to move to Nottingham. They think it’s a better place to live.
The average British family has 3.6 members. It is smaller and richer than 50 years ago.

The government, who are hoping to ease export restrictions soon, …
The government, which is elected by a simple majority, …

My firm are wonderful. They do all they can for me.
My firm was founded in the 18th century.

When a group noun is used with a singular determiner (e.g. a/an, each, every, this, that), singular verbs and pronouns are normal. Compare:

The team are full of enthusiasm.
A team which is full of enthusiasm has a better chance of winning.

Sometimes singular and plural forms are mixed:

The group gave its first concert in June and they are already booked up for the next six months.

Examples of group nouns which can be used with both singular and plural verbs in British English:

bank
the BBC
choir
class
club
committee
England (e.g. the football team)
family
firm
government
jury
ministry
orchestra
party
public
school
staff
team
union

In American English singular verbs are normally used with most of these nouns in all cases (though family can have a plural verb). Plural pronouns can be used:

The team is in Detroit this weekend. They have a good chance of winning.”