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I versus Me

Categories: Questions & Quandaries Blog.
Q: I get confused when trying to decide when to use the pronouns “I” and “me.” Sometimes it’s obvious, but other times I just can’t decide. What’s the rule?—Anonymous

A: Pronouns can be a little tricky from time to time, particularly “I” and “me,” but all you need to do is follow these guidelines to keep your writing grammatically correct.

If the pronoun is the subject of a clause, always use the nominative case, or “I.” I went to the park. After watching a scary movie, I hid under my bed for three days.

Whenever the pronoun is the object of the verb or the object of a preposition, you must use the objective case, or “me.” The principal called me to her office. She wanted to talk to me. The same rule applies even if a prepositional phrase contains two or more objects. Doug makes fun of my sister and me for hiding under the bed when we’re scared.

Also, if you find that the pronoun is the subject of an infinitive (to be, to hold, to pummel, etc.), use the objective case. My mom needed me to cut the grass.

These rules not only hold true for “I” and “me,” but also for all other pronouns. He bought a dog. The dress looked stunning on her. It’s a battle between them and us. Just follow the guides above when you’re having a case of pronoun-itis.

Brian A. Klems is the online managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.

Have a question for me? Feel free to post it in the comments section below or e-mail me at WritersDig@fwpubs.com with “Q&Q” in the subject line. Come back each Tuesday as I try to give you more insight into the writing life.

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8 Responses to I versus Me

  1. jessiepalooza says:

    I see people posting photos on social networking sites that say, “Beth and I” as the caption. However, when I think of using a sentence, I think: “Here is a picture of me.” And so, I would write, “Beth and me” as the caption. Can you tell me if I am correct?

  2. Max Thayer says:

    Solid information, Brian. But it should also be observed that certain dialects will prefer nonstandard uses of "me" or "I". For example, "Me’n Bobby headed to the park." While ‘grammatically incorrect,’ it is perfectly acceptable in a variety of English dialects. If such forms are appropriate to your character’s upbringing, location, or personality, then it can enhance a sense for that location, or flavor that character’s nature. As a warning, though, such forms are nonstandard and will therefore draw attention to themselves, so use them with caution.

  3. Can you please clarify the use of the apostrophe "s" when used in addition to "of" in expressing the possessive case. I understood that it was not necessary and indeed incorrect since "of" takes the place of an apostrophe "s" in, for example, "a friend of Harry." Increasingly, I see this written as "a friend of Harry’s."

  4. Here’s a toughie that came up in my writing the other day:

    Neither Caitlin nor I ___ having any luck finding someone to interview.

    Should the verb be "am"? "Is"? "Are"?

  5. Deborahmichelle Sanders says:

    So would you please advise whether to write, "me, myself," or simply, "myself?" Thank you!

  6. Dale Emery says:

    A rule I learned from my mother about "and" and pronouns. If I’m not sure whether to write "Jack and I" or "Jack and me," drop the other person and see which pronoun sounds right.

    So should I write "Jack and I went to the store" or "Jack and me went to the store"? Drop the "Jack and". Now the choice is between "I went to the store" and "me went to the store". "I went …" sounds right, so in this case it’s "Jack and I …"

    Should I write "Homer gave Jack and I a ride" or "Homer gave Jack and me a ride"? Drop the "Jack and". Now we have "Homer gave I a ride" versus "Homer gave me a ride". In this case, "me" is the right pronoun, so it’s "Homer gave Jack and me a ride."

  7. soly says:

    Hi Brian!

    Thanks for the info re: "I" and "me".

    So I was wrong when I used the "I" in: I enjoyed the show; not only "I" but also my friends?

    Warm regards,

    Soly

  8. Michele says:

    Great information!

    I try to keep English grammar/style reference books around just in case I come across something in question.

    Keep the advice coming. Hope you have a great day!

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