February 12, 2007

Me and him, him and I

In the same vein as my post "A is a letter," I'd like to talk about the confusion around subjects and objects.

Specifically, when someone is talking about herself and another person as the objects of a sentence, there is confusion about whether to refer to herself as "I" or "me".

We all learned in grade school that the proper way to refer to oneself and another person is to say "she and I."

That is, it's proper when "she" and "I" are the subjects of the sentence, as in "She and I spiked the lemonade at the party." This works because "She spiked the lemonade" and "I spiked the lemonade" both work independently.

"He," "she," "I," and "we," are all subject pronouns - they are the actors in a sentence - the "do-ers" and "be-ers" (according to the Guide to Grammar & Writing). These pronouns change, however, when they become the objects of a sentence.

Object pronouns become "him," "her," "me," "them" and "us" - and a few others. Things happen TO and FOR the object pronouns.

"She and I spiked the lemonade for them."

Here's where the problem comes in - speakers do this all the time. They use "I" instead of "me" as the object pronoun, thinking it's more "proper".

Example: "She spiked the lemonade for Max and I." If you split that sentence up and say, "She spiked the lemonade for Max," and "She spiked the lemonade for I," you see that it doesn't make sense. It should be "She spiked the lemonade for me and Max." (Also, "She spiked the lemonade for us" works here, but not "She spiked the lemonade for we.")

I've heard people say, for example, "Please leave your business card with Janet or I." If you split up the objects, again you see that "leave your business card with Janet" makes sense, but "leave your business card with I" does not! "Please leave your business card with me or Janet" is the way to go.

If you find yourself confused about this rule, split up the two objects of the sentence and see if each one makes sense independently.

And, in addition to the site mentioned above, this site has some good grammar resources if you're unsure of yourself: The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation.

You can spend all the time in the world polishing and practicing your presentation, but as I said in the previous post, you will lose credibility as an expert if your grammar is not up to par.

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4 comments. Please add yours! :

Unknown said...

Great. Now I have to check into a mispronounced word rehab center!!

Anonymous said...


I have been trying to get this through my own head to explain it to my kids (who go to school in French).
Thanks for doing the split up thing.
I am copying this whole text and putting it in my personal reference library. I just KNOW I will need it again.

Anonymous said...

This was actually a great post. I usually always "Me and..." to start off a sentence, and always thought people were being sorta anal if they corrected it. But the way you showed it being broken into two different sentences was actually kind of eye opening. I think I may try to consciously change that error from now on. :-)

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks! I'm glad you found it helpful!

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