I vs Me

Mistakes made with the English pronouns I and me have been increasing exponentially for years. The difference is actually very simple – let me explain it to you.

I

I is the first person singular subject pronoun, which means that it refers to the person performing the action of a verb.

I want to go.

This is the one I like.

You and I need to get ready.

Tom and I are going to the movies.

 
Me

Me is an object pronoun, which means that it refers to the person that the action of a verb is being done to, or to whom a preposition refers.

David told me to leave.

He gave me ten dollars.

Between you and me, this is a bad idea.

She needs to talk to Joe or me.


 
 
The Bottom Line

This confusion usually occurs when you have I/me connected to another pronoun or name with "and" or "or." I believe that the confusion begins when someone says something like "John and me are ready" and that is corrected to "John and I are ready." The speaker then thinks, "Oh, the word ‘and’ means that I should always use I." This is not the case. "And" has nothing to do with it; the reason you say "John and I" in that sentence is that "John and I" are the subject. If they were the object, you’d use me: "He told John and me to get ready."

If you are not good with grammar concepts like subject and objects, there is still a very easy way to decide whether to use I or me: try out the sentence with just I or me (or if you need a plural, we or us – "we" is equivalent to "I" and "us" is equivalent to "me."):

He told Tom and (I or me?) to get ready.
He told I to get ready? NO
He told me to get ready? YES
Therefore, He told Tom and me to get ready.

If John and (I or me?) get married, we’ll have two kids.
If me get married? NO
If I get married? YES
Therefore, If John and I get married, we’ll have two kids.

Just between you and (I or me?), this is a bad idea.
Because "between" needs to be followed by a plural, we’ll use "we" and "us" to figure this out.
Just between we? NO
Just between us? YES
Just between you and me, this is a bad idea.

And whatever you do, please don’t use a subject pronoun and object pronoun together!

He and I – correct: "He and I are going to town."
Him and me – correct: "She told him and me the truth."
Him and I – WRONG
He and me – WRONG

 
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17 comments for “I vs Me

  1. nick
    7 March 2014 at 4:48 pm

    Awesome . Good and very easy to understand.

  2. Anne
    20 March 2014 at 9:37 am

    My husband had a co-worker who used to “correct” people who didn’t use I. He is one of those people who thinks you always pair a name with I. I don’t mind if people just don’t know any better, but to correct others when you don’t really know what you are talking about is frustrating. I explained to my husband that his co-worker was incorrect and taught him the trick about removing the name to figure out which pronoun to use. Those of us who use correct pronouns are in the minority, and we face uphill battle. People look at us as if we are clueless. Grrrr.

  3. Janet Budge
    24 March 2014 at 2:07 pm

    And you spend several days teaching this to kids in just this way, and most of them pass the test, but because the incorrect way is what they hear, they still speak incorrectly. My head is sore from banging it on the wall. Also, I tried ‘less versus fewer, and had the same results. At my age, I should know better, but because I’m one of the grammar police–probably the one you were warned about, I keep on trying.

  4. Fiona
    26 March 2014 at 3:45 pm

    This is a very clear and easily understood explanation.
    My son (age 10) was corrected on his use of I/me at school but the reason was not explained clearly to him. He thought it was always ‘and me’ and as the teacher is always right he wouldn’t believe me!
    Thank goodness he accepted this as my back up plan.

  5. jeff
    28 March 2014 at 11:08 am

    What is the correct way to say…… “do us the honor of joining Janice and me for Sunday dinner” or is it “do us the honor of joining janice and I for Sunday dinner”

    • lkl
      28 March 2014 at 6:44 pm

      As the lesson says, you can figure it out by taking out the other name. Would you say “joining I for dinner” or “joining me for dinner”?

    • retiredlibrarian
      28 March 2014 at 7:57 pm

      C’mon–join I for dinner? Join Janice and me, please.

  6. Chet
    13 April 2014 at 11:37 am

    Are both of these correct? George asked me to conduct. George asked that I conduct.
    Can any words be left out and still be correct? George asked I conduct. Are both correct (without “of these”)? Are these correct (without “both of”)?
    Thank you.

    • lkl
      13 April 2014 at 3:29 pm

      They are both correct, but “George asked me to conduct” sounds more natural. The other is kind of stilted/formal.

      No, you can’t leave out any words. “George asked I conduct” is wrong.

      “Are both correct” and “Are these correct” are both fine.

  7. Donna
    6 May 2014 at 2:26 am

    I remember from a very young age how teachers constantly interrupted when students would start a sentence with, “Me and John,” or “John and me.” The teacher would wag their finger and say, “You mean John and I.” This was stressed so often without any further explanation. I believe this is why so many people always use I instead of me. Example: Janet had John and I over for dinner, instead of the correct way: Janet had John and me over for dinner. They seem to think if there’s an “and” then the rule is to say, “I.” Fortunately, I had a teacher who explained the rule and she also taught me the trick of removing the second name. This has become a pet peeve for me simply because I see so many people, who are supposed to be highly educated, make this mistake repeatedly. Why are they not corrected anywhere from middle school through college?

  8. SET
    8 May 2014 at 11:22 pm

    My son is in 2nd grade and has a substitute filling in the last 6 weeks of school because his teacher just had a baby. It did not make a great impression that she sent home a letter using “I” incorrectly on her first day!

  9. Andy
    21 May 2014 at 8:42 am

    If you have someone explain back to you the reasons posted above about subject and object pronouns, in their explanation, they will hear exactly how I or me should be used.

  10. English student
    7 June 2014 at 2:21 pm

    Me and Bobby Mc Gee is a song from Janis Joplin; If donna´s teacher had heard this song would he have wagged his finger again? I dont think so. It´s the same when I say
    You are an expert in english grammar.; and (what about ) me? No, I am not.
    As a result : (about) Me and (about ) Bobby Mc Gee.. However Bobby Mc Gee and I never met each other. HE never met ME and I never met HIM.

    Are these correct? Thank you for the explanation .

  11. cathy
    17 June 2014 at 8:21 am

    Is it I or me? “There’s Oliver and I on the walk” or “There’s Oliver and me on the walk.” (Caption on a picture posted to Facebook.

    • lkl
      17 June 2014 at 9:08 am

      Let me ask you this: would you say “there’s we on the walk” or “there’s us on the walk”?

  12. Somebody
    29 June 2014 at 4:18 am

    Is it “So you should be taking the credit for the success, not me” or “So you should be taking the credit for the succes, not I?”

    Thanks in advance!

    • lkl
      29 June 2014 at 11:06 am

      The grammatically correct response is “not I.” But “not me” is so common that many people don’t consider it wrong.

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