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Is It Correct to Say “I Alone”?

If you’ve ever found yourself in a situation where you had to explain your actions to someone or claim responsibility for something, you’ve most likely had to use the term “I alone.” So let’s explore whether or not it’s correct to say this phrase.

It is correct to say “I alone” to express that an individual acted independently. You say it to emphasize that no one other than you did or will do something. For example, you could say, “I alone made that decision,” to heavily stress that you made the decision and solely carry its responsibility.

Read on to gain a deeper understanding of the phrase so that you can use it effectively in the future.

 What Does “I Alone” Mean? 

“I alone” conveys that an individual acted on their own, separately from others. Depending on the context, it could also describe the state of being on one’s own. It is similar in meaning to “I myself.” 

Let’s look at each word in isolation to give us a better understanding of the complete phrase.

You use “I” as a pronoun to distinguish yourself as the speaker or the subject of a verb (source). It is also a noun that describes oneself. Verbs usually follow “I,” but there are exceptions such as, “I, as you may already know, don’t like that subject.”

  • I can’t attend the sports match on Saturday; I’ll be studying.
  • I didn’t do so well on my last test.

“Alone” comes from the adjective “lonely,” meaning discontent from not being in the company of others (source). It could also refer to an empty place, for example, “The lonely highway.”

“Alone” as an adjective (dark blue) describes the state of being isolated from others, but as an adverb (light blue), it explains how an action has been done (source).

  • Professor Hamlyn speaks too quickly.
  • He went there alone.

Because “I alone” does not have a subject-verb unit, as with a clause, it is a phrase (source). More specifically, it is an appositive phrase because “alone” gives more information about the “I” (source).

“I alone” can take on a different meaning when it is part of a question where its function changes from emphasizing that you acted separately from others.

How Do You Use “I Alone”?

You use “I alone” when emphasizing that you’ve done something without anyone else’s involvement. For example, “I alone take responsibility for not handing in my homework on time.”

You should place verbs after “I alone.” For example, “I alone made that decision.” It’s important to note that the phrase’s meaning changes when it comes before a verb. For example, “Was I alone out there?” doesn’t stress that someone acted alone but rather the condition of being alone.

Nouns, however, never follow the phrase. To illustrate, it would be incorrect to say, “I alone the project did.

One can also classify “I alone” as a subject complement because “alone” describes the subject “I” even without a linking verb in the sentence, as in “The teacher is an expert in the field.

Like most standard sentences, the example “If I alone am willing to try and, if successful, the credit will be mine” contains a subject and predicate where “I alone” is the person “willing to try,” which gives information on the subject.

Another example of this two-part structure is “Do I alone believe that that’s the case?” where “I alone” indicates the subject who “believes,” which expresses an action.

You can use “I alone” in the past, present, and future tenses. The verb following the phrase determines this. For instance:

  • Past: He told them that I alone would be taking the bus.
  • Present: I alone understand that concept.
  • Future: I alone will make sure that she studies.

When Can You Use “I Alone”?

You can use “I alone” to highlight your sole involvement with something in any tense or context. For example, “I alone can fix it.” When it comes before a verb, the phrase means the state of being alone, for example, “Am I alone.”

In the first instance, you use it to express the weight of responsibility, such as when your action results in a consequence that requires accountability. For example:

  • It wasn’t her fault that she missed her class; I alone am to blame.

You can also use the phrase to express that one wishes to do something alone to rectify something, such as the following example.

  • I caused this, so I alone must put in the effort to fix it.

In addition, you could use “I alone” to push off people trying to do something rightfully theirs to do. For example:

  • I’m the owner of the work, so I alone must improve on it.

You can also use it to specify that you were somewhere on your own at a specific time. This usually takes the form of a question like the following.

  • Am I alone here today?

Using “I Alone” in a Full Sentence

The phrase is not a full sentence on its own, so a verb must accompany it to qualify as such. For example, “I alone remembered” is a complete sentence. However, you can use “I alone” as a minor sentence to answer a direct question, though you should only do so in formal contexts.

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As a noun phrase, “I alone” can appear at a sentence’s start, middle, or end.

  • I alone made that mistake.
  • Despite what anyone says, I alone trained hard for that game.
  • When am I alone?

It’s also important to note that punctuation placement within a compound sentence can change its meaning. For example, “What? Am I alone?” communicates surprise at one’s state of being alone as opposed to the existential question, “What am I alone.

When Not to Use “I Alone”

You shouldn’t use “I alone” when you act along with others, nor should you use it to replace “lonely” because “lonely” describes unhappiness about being on one’s own.

For example, it would be incorrect to say, “She and I alone handed in our assignments” because, in this instance, more than one person carried out the same activity. In other words, either “She alone handed in her assignment” or “I alone” did.

Different from “alone,” a noun can follow “lonely,” as in “She was a lonely girl” (source). However, “lonely” is not a suitable replacement for the appositive “alone.”

  • Incorrect: I lonely accept the consequences.
  • Correct: I alone accept the consequences.

What Can You Use Instead of “I Alone”?

There are numerous alternatives to “I alone,” depending on the message you want to convey. For example, using “I went there on my own” instead of “I alone went there” still indicates that you solely did something.

In the above example, the phrase was directly substituted with “on my own”; however, in most cases, “I alone” replacement phrases modify the sentence structure without changing its meaning. For instance, “I alone can make it right” becomes “I can make it right by myself.

Here are some other examples of the different words you can use instead:

  • I’m the only one who attempted to answer the question.
  • I, myself, passed that exam.
  • It was just me.
  • I was the one who took the test.

Other phrases that place emphasis on “I” but do not necessarily mean “I” was the only one are:

  • I personally proctored the exam.
  • I proctored the exam myself

Intensifying Adverbs

The word “intensify” is a verb that means to make more robust or more acute (source), while an adverb describes an action. Intensifying adverbs, therefore, indicate the degree of activity.

For example, changing “I suggest that you study for the exam” to “I strongly suggest that you study for the exam” stresses the importance of having to do something.

Other examples of intensifying verbs are “very,” “so,” “really,” and “pretty,” which are also the intensifying adverbs Americans use the most (source).

This relates to “I alone” because “alone” is the adverb, and the placement of “I” before it amplifies the adverb. So, by replacing “I achieved a distinction” with “I alone achieved a distinction,” you emphasize the individual’s effort.

-ly Derived Adverbs

Another category of intensifying adverbs contains those that end in “-ly,” such as “extremely,” “awfully,” or “absolutely.” 

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Many adverbs end in “-ly,” so these intensifying adverbs are prevalent in American English. In the case of “absolutely,” it indicates the “epitome of something.” For example, “He was absolutely right when he said that” communicates the speaker believes “him” without a doubt.

You can read more about intensifying adverbs like “absolutely” in Is It Correct to Say “Absolutely”?

Adverbs Modifying Adjectives

Adjectives such as “good,” “huge,” and “true” also have an intensifying role in the same way that “I alone” stresses sole responsibility for something.

So, “There’s a huge deficit in school funding” conveys the extent to which the money needed is inadequate.

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Other examples of adverbs modifying adjectives are as follows:

  • Well adjusted individual
  • Big blue couch
  • Fully stocked freezer
  • Quite simple math

Final Thoughts

As we’ve seen, “I alone” denotes having done something entirely on one’s own to claim accountability for it. For example, “I alone would not be able to” communicates that you’re subject to not being able to carry out a task on your own without the assistance of others.

On the other hand, we also use it to describe the state of being alone, which usually takes the form of a question such as “Who am I alone?