Making Sense of English Grammar: It's You and Me -- Or Is It I?

Mixing up I and me might be one of the most common English grammar and syntax errors, and the prevalence of the confusion seems to be growing rapidly. For the most part, it's pretty easy to know which to use in simple constructions, like I went to the store or Dan gave me a ride. Throw in another person, though, and the confusion begins – is it Jeannie and I or Jeannie and me? There's a quick and dirty way to figure it all out.

First, some background: I and me are both first-person singular pronouns, which is a fancy way of saying they substitute for your name when you are talking about yourself as an individual. When the pronoun is the subject of the sentence – the one doing whatever the verb indicates – the correct choice is I, but me is the right word when the pronoun is receiving the action of the verb. For example:

  • I finished that report last month. You did the work on the report, so you are the subject.
  • My boss asked me to do the report again. This time, you aren't doing the asking; you are receiving the request, so you are the object of the verb.

The rule is the same when you add another person, either by name or with a pronoun, to the equation. However, adding that and into the sentence makes it harder to “hear” the correct choice, and taking the time to analyze the sentence to decide if the pronoun is functioning as the subject or the object isn't practical, and it's pretty frustrating.

So, how can you check to be sure you are writing the sentence correctly? Just take the other person out for a moment, then try the sentence with just the first-person pronoun. The one that works alone is the one you need in the expanded company. For example:

  • Jeffrey and I/me are going fishing on Saturday. Leave Jeffrey out for now. Would you write I am going or Me am going? Since I would be correct alone, the right choice is Jeffrey and I.
  • The boss is sending Howard and I/me to Tokyo for two weeks. Let Howard stay behind for a minute. You would write The boss is sending me, so the correct option is Howard and me.

Now you can choose the proper pronoun without stopping to worry about the reason that it is correct.

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Dave Child

Dave is the founder of Readable.io, and has been building websites since the early 90s. He's one of those fortunate people who gets to do what he loves for a living.

       


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