I vs. Me

i-vs-meIn one of my previous posts, I discussed the use of “I” in your essay. In that post, I was referring to how to use your own personal voice. In this one, I’ll cover a more practical grammatical issue–the challenge of “I” vs. “Me.”

The other editors and I have noticed a common mistake in many of the essays we get here at Wordsmith Essays. (Or should I have written “the other editors and me…?”)

When we’re talking, “I” and “me,” “he” and “him,” and “she” and “her” are frequently interchangeable. I’ll bet you could even catch your English teacher using one word where the other is technically correct. Compound subjects and compound objects can be tricky to keep straight when you’re speaking, and it’s generally excusable to flub the rules in spoken English. But when you’re taking the time to write something formally, you should also take the time to ensure that you keep your subjects straight.

Fortunately, there’s an easy trick to help keep things straight. It’s very simple: all you have to do is imagine the sentence with only one person involved, and see which pronoun you would use. The result is the correct one. That’s it. Really!

For example, if you want to say:

Colin and (me/I) play football on Friday afternoons.

…but are unsure which pronoun to use, just drop the “Colin and” portion. It becomes clearer, then, that “I play football” is better grammar than “me play football.” So “I” is the correct word to use, even in the compound subject.

Here, let’s try one more:

(He/him) and his family moved to Chicago.

Again, all you have to do here is drop the “and his family” bit. You’re left with “He moved to Chicago.” Not “Him moved to Chicago.” This trick works every time.

There are a couple cases, however, where this I vs. Me trick may not produce an obviously correct answer. And, for me, these cases usually involve prepositions. Some are fairly clear, but here’s the example I always use to show the problem:

Between you and (me/I)

What do you do there? “Between me” has never sounded right to me, but neither does “Between I.” My trick doesn’t work here. So have to remember one grammar rule: when your pronoun comes after a preposition (like “between”) you need to use an object form (me, him, her, us, or them).

So yes, there are some parts of English grammar that you’ll have to memorize. All languages have grammar rules like this. Honestly, though? The substitution method is much simpler to remember and use than the details of whether a word is the subject or the object of the sentence.

At, least, (I/me) and my friends all seem to think so.
photo credit: ValetheKid via photopin cc

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