Between You and I, We’ve Got a Problem!

Do you make this common grammar error?

Got a Problem
Subject-object confusion.

Today I want to talk about me. No, I don’t mean me, Dean, I mean the objective pronoun me versus the nominative pronoun I. One of the most common errors in speech and writing is to use I where me should be. 

Here’s the general rule in the simplest terms: Use I as the subject of a sentence or clause and me as the object of a sentence or clause.

Let me give some examples of the incorrect use of these pronouns:

  • “People gave my wife and I four toasters for wedding presents.” (incorrect)
  • “One of the best things to happen to Gary and I is that we became best friends.” (incorrect)

Here’s why both are incorrect: the pronoun I is virtually always used in the nominative case, as the subject of a sentence or clause, not the object. The objective pronoun is me. Replace I with me in both sentences: 

  • “People gave my wife and me four toasters for wedding presents.” (correct)
  • “One of the best things to happen to Gary and me is that we became best friends.” (correct)

Here’s an easy test to use when you’re not sure: 

In your mind, take out the “[other person’s name] and” and see how it sounds. Let’s try it with our examples. 

  • “People gave my wife and I four toasters for wedding presents.”

          Which becomes:

  • “People gave . . . I four toasters for wedding presents.” 

Doesn’t sound right, does it? Nope. How about this one:

  • “One of the best things to happen to [Gary and] I is that we became best friends.”

          Which becomes:

  • “One of the best things to happen to . . . I is that we became best friends.”

Uh-uh. Just doesn’t sound right. 

So even if you forget the rule about nominative I and objective me, if you remember that simple test, you’ll get the I-me thing right most of the time. 

How about an example of using the nominative I correctly?

  • “My wife and I gave the newlyweds a toaster for a wedding gift.” (“My wife and I” is the subject in this sentence and therefore is correct.)

Between you and me, let’s fix the title of this essay: It’s “between you and me,” not “between you and I,” which is just wrong. You and me are both objects of the preposition between. Make sense? Of course!


© 2016 by Dean Christensen

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Author: Dean Christensen

Educator, copyeditor, writer, voiceover guy, baseball bug, logophile, classical music afficionado, classic rock 'n' roll lover, classic-movie buff, bibliophile, former this, used to be that, and future who knows what. Every day is an adventure in learning.

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