Grammar 101: I or me?

Whenever I hear someone say ‘Give it to Helen and I’ or ‘Just between you and I’, I want to scream.

Sorry, I’m not usually that pedantic about grammar, but this one really gets me going.

This error seems to have arisen from childhood memories of our mothers correcting us as children. You know the scenario – you’ve said: “Mum, me and Peter are going to the park’ And your mother has said, almost as a reflex: ‘Peter and I are going to the park, dear.’

So, we’ve all remembered the construction ‘Peter and I’.

Unfortunately, while Mum was right in this case, the Australian public seems to have taken this example as a universal rule, at the same time as forgetting about poor old ‘me’.

Let me say loud and clear: it is perfectly acceptable to use ‘me’ in around 50% of cases.

So, how do you know when it’s ‘I’ or ‘me’?

The answer is simple: take the other person out of the sentence and try ‘I’ or ‘me’ and you will know which form to use.

For example, do you say: ‘

  • Please give it to Helen and I

or

  • Please give it to Helen and me?

First, take the other person out of the sentence. You now have two options:

  • Please give it to [Helen and] I
  • Please give it to [Helen and] me.

Which one sounds right?

Of course, it’s the second one. You would NEVER say ‘Please give it to I’. So the correct form is:

  • Please give it to Helen and me.

In the example of ‘Just between you and I/me’, it’s a little more tricky, but if you change the other person to a thing, say a door, it makes more sense:

  • I couldn’t escape because the murderer was between the door and I.

or

  • I couldn’t escape because the murderer was between the door and me.

Again, the second version is right.

So, whenever you are stuck and can’t work out whether it’s ‘I’ or ‘me’, do the two tests above, and you are sure to find the right answer.

And for those of you who would like a more detailed explanation, in a nutshell, it is the ‘case’ of the pronoun (I /me) that determines which one you use. ‘I’ is subjective case (the ‘I’ is doing the action) and ‘me’ is the objective case (the action is being done to, or in relation to, ‘me’). There are scores of articles and books you can read, but this one from Grammarly is a good place to start: https://www.grammarly.com/blog/grammar-basics-what-is-grammar-case/

 

 

 

 

 

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