In 1997, singer Paula Cole released a song entitled “I Don’t Want to Wait” that featured this jim-dandy of a phrase:
So open up your morning light
and say a little prayer for I
I suspect that there aren’t many native speakers of English who would say such a thing in their natural speech. It just sounds wrong. Of course there also happens to be an actual rule that Cole is breaking here. She’s using the subjective case of a pronoun in place of the objective case.
Subjective case and objective case are, when so labeled, kind of a mystery to a lot of people, but if you, like me, cringe to hear or read Cole’s song, you’ve picked up a natural sense of the rule, even if you can’t articulate the rule’s details.
In a nutshell, there are certain pronouns (pronouns, recall, are words like “I,” “he,” “she,” and “they”) that must act as subjects and certain pronouns that must act as objects. The subject is the part of a sentence corresponding to who is performing the action of a sentence. The object is the part of a sentence corresponding to what entity in the sentence the subject acted upon, with, or for.
“I” is always a subject. So “I” may say a little prayer, but you can never, ever say a little prayer for “I.” You can, however, say a little prayer for “me,” since “me” is always an object. And even if you can’t articulate the rule, you innately know the rule, for you would never be caught dead saying, in earnest, “me say a little prayer.”
Now, many many intelligent people still get tripped up when using sentences with compound objects, and this is understandable, since there are more parts of speech to juggle. For example:
Who will go to the store with Mary and I?
Who will go to the store with Mary and me?
Which one is the correct usage? Because they spent their whole childhoods being taught not to say “Mary and me went to the store,” people often err in the other direction by insisting upon “I” in the object as well. The trick to figuring this one out is to omit the extra object:
Who will go to the store with I?
Who will go to the store with me?
As surely as Cole’s lyric sounds like a dud, the first sentence here sounds like a dud, and so we know that when we add Mary back into the equation, we want to settle on the “me” version of the sentence.
Having hopefully gotten “I” and “me” sorted out, we now come to “myself.” Take this example:
John and myself went to the store.
People use this I suppose to avoid “me” and to sound what seems more elevated or formal, but it’s incorrect usage. “Myself” is a reflexive pronoun, meaning that it is used only when making reference back to the subject “I.” There are a couple of ways we do this:
I myself don’t like the smell of rhinoceros dung.
I have never given myself a wedgie.
In the first sentence, “myself” is wholly optional and adds emphasis. In the second, “myself” is acting as an object, but note that it it refers back to the subject “I.” You would never ever say:
The rhinoceros gave a wedgie to myself.
There is, in this sentence, no subject “I” for “myself” to refer back to. So, if you yourself wish to use “myself” in a sentence, double check to make sure you are doing so either for emphasis or to explain that you are performing an action on yourself. This pronoun is not a fancier way of saying “I” or “me.”