What’s the correct form: ‘Helen and I’ or ‘Helen and me’?

When I was growing up, I had a friend called Helen. If we wanted to go somewhere together, say the park, I’d say to my mum, Mum. Helen and me are going to the park.

And every time Mum woud correct me by saying, It’s ‘ Helen and I’, darling.

And she was right to correct me. I’m guessing most of you would have had the same experience.

You’ve been told countless times not to start a sentence with Helen and me are…, so you’ve assumed that it always has to be Helen and I.

Sorry to have to tell you this, but, it’s perfectly acceptable to use ‘Helen and me’ some of the time.

The trick is to work out what  ‘I’ is doing in the sentence.

A simple rule

There’s a really simple way to find out when to use ‘I’ and when to use ‘me’.

You take the other person out of the sentence and see if it still makes sense.

Some examples

Let’s apply the rule to this sentence: Helen and me are going to the park.

  • If we take ‘Helen’ out of the sentence, we are left with
    • Me are (or Me am) going to the park.

Does this make sense? No. We would never start a sentence with ‘Me are ‘ or ‘Me am’.

  • If we take Helen out when we try it with ‘I’, we are left with
    • I are (or I am) going to the park.

Does it make sense? Yes, it does!

So, it’s correct to say, ‘Helen and I are going to the park’.

So when do you use ‘Helen and me’?

Let’s imagine you wanted to talk about an award your teacher gave to you and your friend, Helen.

Let’s try it with ‘I’ first. Which would you say?

  1. The teacher gave it to Helen and I.
  2. The teacher gave it to Helen and me.

Hmm, it’s hard to tell. So, let’s take Helen out of the sentence.

We now have two options:

  1. The teacher gave it to I.
  2. The teacher gave it to me.

Which one sounds right?

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

  • The teacher gave it to Helen and me.

Problem solved

So, there you have it!

Do this simple test and you’ll never wonder whether it should be ‘I’ or ‘me’ again.

But why?

Some of you are probably wondering why this is the case. 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 article from Grammarly is a good place to start.