Monday, April 27, 2009

A Grammatical Pet Peeve

I'm a math major. Or, to be correct, I was a math/compSci major and then dropped out of college after my junior year. So it amuses me to no end that a math/sci dropout can get this right and so many other seemingly edumacated people CAN'T! I know it's a really silly and petty pet peeve but it drives me nuts when I see a photo album entitled "Pics of Bob and I". Really? You have some pictures of "I", do yah? As far as pet peeves go, that's right up there with pronouncing "ESC" words as if they were spelled "EXK" - like EXspecially or EXscape. But I digress.

When to use "Me" vs "I". It's really pretty simple once you get down to it. I'm bad at explaining it, however. So I went to the interwebs to get some explanationating assistance.

Here is a very good write up from If you don't want to read the whole thing, skip to the bottom for a very good boiled down rule of thumb.

I vs Me

Mistakes made with these two English pronouns have been increasing exponentially for years. The difference is actually very simple - let me explain it to you.


I is the first person singular subject pronoun, which means that it refers to the person performing the action of a verb.

I want to go.
This is the one I like.
You and I need to get ready.
Tom and I are going to the movies.


Me is an object pronoun, which means that it refers to the person that the action of a verb is being done to, or to which a preposition refers.

David told me to leave.
He gave me ten dollars.
Between you and me, this is a bad idea.
She needs to talk to Joe or me.

The Bottom Line

This confusion usually occurs when you have I/me connected to another pronoun or name with "and" or "or." I believe that the confusion begins when someone says something like "John and me are ready" and that is corrected to "John and I are ready." The speaker then thinks, "Oh, the word 'and' means that I should always use I." This is not the case. "And" has nothing to do with it; the reason you say "John and I" in that sentence is that "John and I" are the subject. If they were the object, you'd use me: "He told John and me to get ready."

If you are not good with grammar concepts like subject and objects, there is still a very easy way to decide whether to use I or me: try out the sentence with just I or me (or if you need a plural, we or us - "we" is equivalent to "I" and "us" is equivalent to "me."):

He told Tom and (I or me?) to get ready.
He told I to get ready? NO
He told me to get ready? YES
Therefore, He told Tom and me to get ready.

If John and (I or me?) get married, we'll have two kids.
If me get married? NO
If I get married? YES
Therefore, If John and I get married, we'll have two kids.

Just between you and (I or me?), this is a bad idea.
Because "between" needs to be followed by a plural, we'll use "we" and "us" to figure this out.
Just between we? NO
Just between us? YES
Just between you and me, this is a bad idea.

And whatever you do, please don't use a subject pronoun and object pronoun together.

He and I - correct: "He and I are going to town."
Him and me - correct: "She told him and me the truth."
Him and I - WRONG
He and me - WRONG

Ok. This college dropout is done being a grammar snob. Man, I really need to get out more.


C. Beth said...

That's the same little trick I use!

j said...

I love grammar nerds. My grammatical pet peeve is when people confuse the words home and hone. Hone is to sharpen and home is to seek out a target. It doesn't make sense to hone in on something. :)

Allie said...

Good on you, that's cool! And guess what? I've never actually heard the explanation before, so I was never sure if I was getting it right! Thanks!

Sarakastic said...

This is exactly why Sarakastic only refers to herself in the third person, makes things much easier.

LEstes65 said...

Jennie - I home in on grammer to hone my English skills.
Allie - I never knew the long explanation. But that bottom line trick of replacing the other person's name or pronoun to see if it makes sense? Someone taught me (and apparently Beth) that back in elementary school and it stuck.
Sarakastic - I always refer to you as HRH Sarakastic and never combine you with anyone else as it debases your wonderfulosity.

Mark Pennington said...

If you are grammatically challenged, or let’s face it, a grammatical snob who will catch the grammatical error in the title of this blog, you owe it to yourself to check out these grammatical pet peeves and tips at Top 40 Grammar Pet Peeves

Cheryl said...

It makes me absolutely nuts to hear 'I' when it should be 'me'. As hard as I try, I can't concentrate on anything someone says after that because my brain just gets stuck on the "and I". It's like fingernails on a blackboard to me! The improper use has become so prevalent in the English language that I sound like I'm the person using poor grammar when I correctly say "and me"(she showed it to Bill and me). Ack!!! It just makes me want to scream.