When to Use I or Me

Whew!  Sorry it’s been a while since I posted on the blog.  Little things like taxes and late night soccer games have interfered with my schedule and sleeping pattern, with some frustrating results.  But I’m back today to share another Word Nerdy tip inspired by my last post, How to Use the Pronoun Myself.

Not only are a lot of people confused about when to use “myself”, they are also uncertain about when to use “I” or “me”, especially if there is more than one person/noun/subject in the sentence.  For example,

Dad gave Percy and I some money.

That sounds right, doesn’t it?  But actually, it’s not correct grammar.  Let me explain.

Personal Pronouns

Pronouns take the place of a noun, and personal pronouns come in two forms, subjective and objective.

Subjective pronouns (I, we) represent the subject of the sentence- the thing that is doing something.  The two we use for first person are I for one or we for multiple people.  For example,

  • I washed the car. (I is the subject of the sentence.)
  • We went to the movie. (We is the subject.)

Objective pronouns (me, us) represent something acted upon by the subject of the sentence, and for first person they are me and us.

  • Dad gave us money.  (Dad (subject)  is giving us(object) something.)
  • The bee stung me.  (The bee (subject) hurt me (object).)

We get confused when a sentence has two or more subjects.  For example, should we say “Tammy and I went to the mall” or “Tammy and me went to the mall”?

It’s also easy to get confused when there are two objects, as in “Dad gave Percy and I some money”.  This sounds right, and often people choose to use “I” because it sounds more formal.  But Percy and I are the objects of this sentence; Dad is the subject. (He’s the one giving out money.)  Therefore, we should use the objective pronoun, or me/us.

The trick for choosing I or Me

Now that we’ve established the cause for confusion, how do we fix it?  I like to substitute we or us and see what sounds right.  For example:

  • Tammy and I went to the mall  OR Me and Tammy went to the mall.
  • Substitute-> We went to the mall OR Us went to the mall.

We is clearly the right choice, and since it’s the subjective form of the pronoun, I know I need to use I.

  • Dad gave me and Percy some money OR Dad gave Percy and I some money.
  • Substitute -> Dad gave us some money OR Dad gave we some money.

Us sounds better, so I know that I should use “me and Percy” in the sentence, as they are the objects of the sentence.

I hope this little trick helps!  Thanks to Grammatically Correct by Anne Stilman for reference info.

Word Nerd Workout

Tell me if each sentence is grammatically correct and why or why not.  Try the we/us substitution trick if you’re not sure.

  1. Sherlock gave Watson and I two minutes to search the room.
  2. Preston and I went to Dairy Queen for ice cream.
  3. Donald told me and Carson to choose a seat at the table.

What other grammar issues confuse you?  I’m happy to help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julia Tomiak
I believe in the power of words to improve our lives, and I help people find interesting words to read. Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Google+. Member of SCBWI and Wordsmithstudio.org.

3 Comments

  1. This rule is easier for me to remember than “myself.” It was pointed out repeatedly when my mother-in-law (a very good grammarian) would yell, “who wants to go swimming??!” (or some other question.) Boy would she get on your case if you said, “ME!!!”

    “Me wants to go swimming or I want to go swimming?” she would primly ask.

    It sounds so formal for a small child to yell, “I!” but only because we are so used to the “me” faux pas.

    So now, whenever a child says, “ME!” in response to a question, I remind them of this rule (did it just last night at my daughter’s sleepover…haha…I’m so embarrassing).

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