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"You and I" or "You and Me"

The basic rules for choosing to say or write "I" or "me."

An old New Yorker cartoon had two men at a bar with one lamenting that “It’s hard to be a ‘between you and me’ person in a ‘between you and I’ world.”  Here are the simple guidelines that will keep people from drinking in midafternoon in mid-Manhattan and keep you putting your best grammatical foot forward.  This post will deal with just the I/me issue although the same rules apply to he/him,
she/her, and they/them.

Pronouns that refer to persons change spelling according to their use in the sentence.  That means that “I” becomes “me” in certain situations.  You have the most often used and abused situations below although there are others uses of these pronouns.  Let’s deal just with the situations that give the most difficulty.

I is used

  • as the subject of a sentence, the subject of a verb.  “Tom and I are going to the Cape.”  The problem seems to arise when the pronoun is linked with another word.  An easy way to check is to take out the other word.  Most people would not say “Me is going to the Cape,” but I do hear the incorrect “Tom and me are going to the Cape.”
  • after some form of the verb to be.  “It is I” is correct. 


Me is used

  • after a verb as its object.  “He likes Kim and me” is correct.  “He likes Kim and I” is incorrect.  Take out the first word to check.  “He likes I” sounds as incorrect as it is.
  • after prepositions.  A preposition is simply a word that links a noun or pronoun to a sentence.  The preposition “between” is a perfect example. 
    Between you and me is correct.  Between you and I is incorrect. 


Up next, thanks to a reader’s request, is who/whom.  Send along your suggestions.

Below is technical stuff.  Case indicates how the pronoun is used in a
sentence.  Nominative is the subject of a sentence or follows the verb “to be.” 
Objective case follows verbs and prepositions.

Nominative                  Objective
case                            case  

I                                 me

he, she                        him, her

we                              us 

they                            them

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Audra Myerberg July 19, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Love this! Thank you and keep it coming.....
Rose A. Doherty July 19, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Thank you, Audra. Next up is who/whom, then lie/lay, then advice/advise. These suggestions have come from folks. What is your pet peeve as a writer and reader?
Audra Myerberg July 19, 2012 at 04:05 PM
oh, the you and I/me is a huge one. So hard to keep my mouth closed when I hear it. Advice/advise is a great one! Not necessarily grammatical but I am always trying to get my kids to say "may I have a cookie" instead of "can I have a cookie". Not always easy to be an English major.
Rose A. Doherty July 19, 2012 at 10:27 PM
The difference between can and may is a big one for me. I use "can" improperly sometimes and always appreciate those people who care enough to correct me with a twinkle. I once had an essay published in the Christian Science Monitor which essentially said that English majors can do anything.
Audra Myerberg July 20, 2012 at 12:36 AM
What a brilliant essay that much have been, Rose. :-)
Rose A. Doherty July 20, 2012 at 01:04 AM
Of course, it was. Want a copy? roseadoherty@aol.com
Audra Myerberg July 20, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Sure!
Karla Vallance July 20, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Could you post a link to the Monitor essay here on this story, too? btw, great grammarial (is that a word?) topic.
Rose A. Doherty July 20, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Thanks, Karla. Neologisms, newly coined words, are the way that language grows! Here is the link to "An English major's secrets for success." Although the piece is old, I think that it is still relevant. www.csmonitor.com/2001/1114/p18s2-hfes.html
Rose A. Doherty July 20, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Here is the link to "An English major's secrets for success." Although the piece is old, I think that it is still relevant. www.csmonitor.com/2001/1114/p18s2-hfes.html I once supervised someone whose entire undergraduate English class had to read the essay. Talk about feeling old.
Karla Vallance July 20, 2012 at 07:25 PM
It's still an excellent piece! And extremely well-put. You've captured why liberal arts educations matter.
Rose A. Doherty July 22, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Amen to that. Please pass it along to others. I have given it to college seniors and their parents who are fretting about not having a trade.

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