I vs Me – Self Help

For whatever reason, this is a pet peeve of mine, the incorrect usage of I and ME.  I think it is because it feels so obviously clunky to me when the wrong one is used.  I am not sure how it started, but I am guessing that people just default to using “I” because somewhere down the line, they heard that it was proper to always refer to themselves that way.  It is, sometimes, but it isn’t when you are adding captions to your photographs on Facebook or providing ownership of something with one or more people.

When relating a story, do you wonder whether to say, “Hector and I went to the movies,” or “Hector and me went… .” Here, you would say, “Hector and I went to the movies,” but “Hector and I” is not always correct. “The race was won by Hector and I” is just as ungrammatical as “Hector and me won the race.” It’s easy to choose correctly if you remember a few simple steps.

1. Remember the difference in case between the pronouns. Both I and me are pronouns that we use to refer to ourselves, but I is nominative, suitable for use as the subject of a sentence or clause, and me is accusative, suitable for use as the object of a verb.

2. Think like a native. Most native speakers rarely make case errors with these pronouns, except when they are paired with other nouns as part of a compound subject or object. (Unfortunately, problems with pronoun case are more common today than twenty years ago.) Although almost no one would say, “Harry took I in his car,” one often hears sentences such as “Harry took Jordan and I in his car.” If you’re trying to determine which pronoun to use in a sentence with a compound subject, try the sentence using only the pronoun part of the subject. Whichever pronoun, I or me, sounds right alone is the one to use in the compound subject.

3. Avoid “Bizarro-speak.” In Superman comics, there’s an imperfect version of Superman called Bizarro, and he does everything in a backward sort of way. He says, “Goodbye” when he means, “Hello,” and he says things such as “Me am so sad to see you” (meaning “I’m glad to see you”). Bizarro, and a little bit of conceit, can help you learn proper pronoun use: If you change the subject around to a different spot in the sentence, and make it about you and only you, you can easily spot the places where the wrong usage of “I” and “me” will make you sound like Bizarro.

Examples:

Harry and me went to the store. (Change it around so that Harry’s out of the picture and it’s just about you – you would never say, “Me went to the store.”)

“Who’s at the door?” You answer, “It’s me.” (No, no, no! You would really properly say, “It is I.” Consider a related sentence: “That writer is me.” Try reversing the word order, and you end up with “Me am that writer.” You use nominative pronouns such as “I” after forms of “to be” (i.e. am, are, is, was, were, be, being, and been). The “to be” functions as an equal sign, so the nouns and pronouns on both sides of the “equal sign” are nominative.

The cake was made by Justin and I. (Would you ever say, “The cake was made by I”?)

4. Use pronouns correctly in comparisons to prevent ambiguity. Write out the full comparison to decide which pronoun to use.

She likes Winifred more than I do. (This can be shortened to “She likes Winifred more than I,” but the former may sound more natural.)

She likes Winifred more than she likes me. (This can be shortened to “She likes Winifred more than me.”)

Tips:

  • Here’s a good tip; just remember ‘me’ never did anything.
  • Place I and me after the other nouns or pronouns.
    • “Elliot, Amanda, and I are friends” (not “I, Elliot, and Amanda are friends”)
    • “The teacher saw him and me” (not “The teacher saw me and him”)
  • In informal situations, consider using “yours truly” if you are unsure or the proper form sounds stuffy. It can replace Ime, or myself.
    • “He’s better at it than yours truly.”
    • “Amanda and yours truly did that.”
    • “It’s yours truly, ma; I got a little message for ya” (from Nelly‘s “My Place“)
    • “I can take care of yours truly” (from Merriam-Webster)
  • Remember to figure out proper usage before you begin to speak; consider saying the sentence desired silently to yourself to determine if you are using the proper word.
  • Now try it yourself.
    • Is this correct?: “You and me are going to the movies later.”
      Answer: No. The correct subject would be “You and I.” (Take the other pronoun out of the sentence and say it again: “I [not me] am going to the movies later.”)
    • Is this correct?: “My mom is taking Javier and I to the mall.”
      Answer: No. The correct object of the verb “taking” is “Javier and me.” (Take Javier out of the equation and try it again: “My mom is taking me [not I] to the mall.”)
    • Is this correct?: “She is better at art than me”
      Answer: No. The correct pronoun would be “I.” (Write the comparison out in full: “She is better at art than I am [not me].”)
  • Practice in your head before you say it until it becomes automatic.

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