I admit it: this is one of my biggest pet peeves, heard everywhere from erudite scholars to less-than-brainy reality TV stars. Either way, somehow it’s come to be understood that in the English language, when in doubt, use “I” and you will likely be speaking correct grammar and sound intelligent too. Not so, people!
While both are pronouns that refer to oneself, there is a simple explanation for the difference between the two (and the key to their use). Use “I” when you are the subject of a sentence; use “me” when you are the object of the sentence. Remember sentence diagrams? At their most basic: [Subject] followed by [verb] followed by [object].
What messes people up though is when you have more than one person as the subject or the object, when the sentence is “He and I went to the store.” Okay, easy enough, “he and I” is correct here. But which of these sentences is correct?
- At the store, the manager congratulated he and I.
- At the store, the manager congratulated him and I.
- At the store, the manager congratulated him and me.
In the above examples, the manager is the subject and therefore, “me” is the object, and the third sentence is the correct one. “The manager congratulated him” – easy. But add another person so it’s not singular anymore and it messes people up. You wouldn’t say, “the manager congratulated I” but a lot of people would have said “the manager congratulated him and I” and think they’re speaking correctly when they’re not.
The easiest way to tell when “I” is correct and when “me” is correct is to remove the other noun (or person) from the sentence and see if it still makes sense.
Examples of the correct use of “I”
- Georgia and I went to the beach this weekend.
I went to the beach this weekend. Me went to the beach this weekend doesn’t make sense. Easy, I know.
- She and I have to make bouillabaisse.
I have to make bouillabaisse. She has to make bouillabaisse. Her has to make bouillabaisse and me has to make bouillabaisse don’t make sense. Still easy, but wait.
Examples of the correct use of “me”
- Please come with Randolph and me to the monster truck rally.
Take out Randolph and it’s “Please come with me to the monster truck rally.” Please come with I to the monster truck rally doesn’t make sense.
- I heard the diplomat talking about him and me.
(Again, take out the other person):
Correct: I heard the diplomat talking about me. I heard the diplomat talking about him.
Incorrect: I heard the diplomat talking about I, or I heard the diplomat talking about he don’t make sense.
Now, go forth and speak properly (dammit)!
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