English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I've always been taught to put myself last when referring to myself in the same sentence as others but the usage of "me and..." seems to be everywhere these days. The misuse of the word "me" instead of "I" aside, is there some new rule I haven't heard of? Shouldn't we put ourselves last regardless of the "me"/"I" usage?

Examples of "correct" usage:

My friends and I went for some ice cream. Did you see my friends and me at the ice cream stand?

Examples of "incorrect" usage:

Me and my friends went for some ice cream. Did you see me and my friends at the ice cream stand?

Note: I was also taught that the only person who could put themselves first was the queen.

share|improve this question
Why do you use "I" in the first case, and "me" in the second case? As it's the subject of the sentence, you should use "I" in both the cases. – kiamlaluno Aug 17 '10 at 9:42
He did say to disregard the misuse of "me" and "I." – kitukwfyer Aug 17 '10 at 13:58
Imagine the following song titles: Bobby McGee and I Or: Mrs. Jones and I :-) – pm_2 Aug 17 '10 at 17:53
up vote 27 down vote accepted

The difference between "I and my friends" and "my friends and I" is purely a matter of courtesy - they are both grammatically correct. I would tend to stick to the latter though, as it's a) more common-place, b) considered more polite, c) seems to flow better.

Indeed, your example of 'incorrect' usage is incorrect solely in that the first sentence uses the accusative (objective) pronoun me, when you actually need the nominative (subjective) pronoun 'I'. The second sentence of that example is correct, since the pronoun needs to be in the accusative, as the object. You seem to understand this though; this is just to clarify.

share|improve this answer
Thanks. To ensure I understand, I can put myself first or last (or in the middle "you, me and Bobby McGee") where the only reason for placement is courtesy. – soutarm Aug 18 '10 at 0:37
@soutarm: Exactly. In terms of grammar, there's nothing wrong with that. – Noldorin Aug 18 '10 at 8:07
agreed, I was always taught it is simply courtesy - you hold a door and go through it last, same when you refer to people in a sentence you put yourself last to defer to their superiority. As for the Queen, even she will say "My husband and I..." as heard on so many Christmas broadcasts. – AdamV Sep 4 '10 at 10:09

There is a tendency in informal speech and writing to use object pronouns when conjoined with other nouns or pronouns, even if serving as the subject of a verb. You never hear this usage if the subject is not conjoined; that is, no native speaker would say “me went for some ice cream” but “me and my friends went for some ice cream” is actually quite a common usage produced by native speakers of all kinds.

This happens because what linguists would call the “unmarked” or standard, basic form for pronouns turns out to be the objective form—me, him, her, them, and the like. This is the form of the pronoun used when there is no verb:

  • Who wants a cookie?

  • “Me and Mrs. Jones”

  • “Me and Bobby McGee”
  • “Me & Julio Down by the Schoolyard”

What happens is as pronouns in conjoined subjects get further and further from the verb, the impulse to change the default form into the subject form is weaker, and in informal contexts, is simply not followed. Now, in formal standard written English, subjects of verbs must be in subjective form, conjoined or not, leading to generations of schoolmarms correcting their students:

  • Mrs. Jones and I
  • Bobby McGee and I
  • Julio and I Down by the Schoolyard

and the famous musical about an excruciatingly correct teacher of English:

  • The King and I

The most fascinating thing of course is that generations of schoolmarms correcting students over the apparently perfectly natural use of objective pronouns in conjoined subjects has made everyone with even a little bit of formal education intensely anxious about using objective pronouns, causing them to hypercorrect and use subject pronouns even where object pronouns are correct: “just between you and I” is a commonly cited example.

Edit: As for the original poster’s actual question, there is nothing in the grammar of English per se about ordering of pronouns in conjoined noun phrases. It is a kind of grammatical etiquette to put yourself last, but there is no rule of grammar governing the order.

share|improve this answer
Another place we can see evidence that the objective form is the unmarked form in English is in the way we label photos. If I have a picture of myself, I label it "me"; I don't label it "I". Contrast this with German, where the subject form is the unmarked form; if I label a photo of myself, I label it "ich" ("I") and not "mich" ("me"). And with your example, if someone asks "who wants a cookie?" in German, the answer would again be "ich". – Kosmonaut Aug 17 '10 at 19:15
@Kosmonaut your photo-labeling example is excellent! – nohat Aug 17 '10 at 19:20
What reported from Kosmonaut about German is true also for Italian; in both the cases, in Italian you use io (I). – kiamlaluno Jun 13 '12 at 9:48
Thank you for injecting some sanity! – Pitarou Jun 16 '12 at 9:41
I would think that "You should blame me and John" is actually more polite than "You should blame John and me". – Peter Shor Jan 5 '13 at 13:54

My partner and I went shopping.

My partner and I = subject.

A friend gave this to my partner and me.

Partner and me = object.

It all depends on where the phrase fits in the sentence. Sometimes you hear I used incorrectly as in "That's a picture of my partner and I." It should be: "That's a picture of my partner and me" because partner and me = object.

If you try taking out "my partner and" you'll soon see whether it should be I or me.

share|improve this answer

No, My partner and I is correct if you are in the nominative case (subjects), but if you are in the accusative case (objects) then it is my partner and me.

Example: My partner and I got the best score in the class. The teacher gave my partner and me an extension on the project.

share|improve this answer

You should use you and I when this acts as a subject and me and you when this acts as an object. The first half of your second example isn't wrong because of the word order (ie Me and my friends vs My friends and me) it is wrong because me can't be the subject of the sentence. It is grammatically wrong.

The second half of your examples are interchangeable. Both are equally common.

share|improve this answer
as an aside: those who down vote may please also add a comment briefly stating the reason. – Kris Dec 7 '11 at 6:23
I upvoted for correctness, but had to scroll back to the question to figure out what this answer referred to. – Cees Timmerman May 3 at 9:56

protected by tchrist Aug 12 '13 at 23:09

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.