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I once had a piece of written work corrected by a very experienced English teacher who told me that writing "according to me" sounded weird and nobody who was English/British would ever say it. I didn't question him, as there was another teacher, Australian, who nodded her approval and so, blushing I murmured "thanks" and felt terribly awkward and almost ashamed.

I surmised that my "mistake" must have stemmed from my living too many years in Italy. After years of exposure to the Italian equivalent; secondo me ("according to" me); secondo te (...you); secondo a lui/lei, (... him/her); secondo noi (...us); and secondo loro (...them). "According to me" just sounded natural to my ears.

Fast forward to this summer and what do I discover on EL&U? That my mistake was in fact, grammatically correct. Is the phrase "according to me" correct?

It's certainly grammatical. Whether and where you use it is entirely a matter of personal choice.

Another user posted this answer:

The use according to me is correct, but it doesn't have the same meaning as in my opinion.

The form according to nn is used when nn is some kind of authority, so if you are using it on yourself, you are also implying that you are an authority in the field.

I prefer the second answer because it explains why according to me sounded odd to the English language teacher. I now no longer make this mistake but after all this time, it still bothers me. Who is to say, that by saying according to him the nominated person is an authority. If I say:

According to my brother, our father will have to go to a nursing home one day.

Would that be technically wrong? "My brother" is not an authority, and he may be younger than I am. If I were to rebuke this claim by saying:

Well, according to me he shouldn't. He would hate losing his freedom and independence.

Would a native English speaker find this phrase odd and even laughable?

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By the way, Mari-Lou, I don't think we would usually find it laughable, no... but maybe just a tiny bit amusing. I can, however, think of using it intentionally in a sort of humorous way, but it's hard for me to illustrate this without actually saying it out loud, sort of in a grandly expressive, self-mocking kind of way. Hey, but that's just according to me, you know, and who would ever listen to me, right?? (hint, hint, wink, wink)(well, not even remotely a common usage, mind you, but I thought it was worth two cents for fun :) –  John M. Landsberg Sep 5 '13 at 15:10

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

"According to so-and-so" is a well-accepted phrase to indicate a certain level of authority. It doesn't mean authority in the sense of indisputable, world-class, absolute authority. It means authority only at the level of indicating that this is the person to whom the statement can be attributed.

It therefore has rather wide usage, all the way from according to my brother, Nancy went to the dance with Frank, right on up to according to Einstein, the universe is curved.

The lowest level of its reference to authority, however, is the second person, according to you, which sometimes is used sarcastically, thus: According to you, I should never have bought stock in Microsoft. Boy, were you wrong.

We don't take it down to the first person, because that becomes overly emphatic, or to put it another way, redundant. According to me is simply saying, this is what I say. It isn't considered necessary to say this is what I say when you say something. You just say it, don't you? I can tell you Nancy went to the dance with Frank without saying According to me, Nancy went to the dance with Frank, you see?

If we look at your examples, Mari-Lou, we can see a little bit more of why the usage sounds a bit strange to native English speakers. Since we do imbue a bit of authority to the according to locution, we usually feel according to my brother, our father will go to a nursing home someday does sound odd; we would instead tend to say my brother thinks our father will go someday, and the response would be but I don't think so rather than according to me he won't. According to in standard English usage is given some weight of authority, even at the lowest level. It isn't taken as purely opinion.

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I see! I thought according to is synonymous with saying; "In my/his/her etc. opinion". –  Mari-Lou A Sep 4 '13 at 6:23
    
At forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=199120 is an example of one situation where it wouldn't sound too outlandish: "Say in a heated discussion between A and B - A: That is ridiculous. B: According to whom? A: According to me! _It would be an infrequent usage." And I agree about the moderate level of authority connoted. 'In my / his / their opinion' has a modality connoting rather less conviction in the accuracy of what follows (and tone can adjust the level of endorsement). 'According to me' sounds pompous; J Smith in a scientific article might use 'According to J Smith'. –  Edwin Ashworth Sep 4 '13 at 6:32
    
I had no idea that saying: according to me sounded sarcastic, pompous or "smart alecky". –  Mari-Lou A Sep 4 '13 at 6:38
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According to the doctors, our father ... is probably more likely than according to my brother, but there is nothing actually wrong with either. –  bib Sep 4 '13 at 12:58
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@bib Agreed; you can give your brother some degree of credibility in his opinion. It's not wrong to say according to my brother in that context, it's just a matter of what you mean by saying it. Just keep in mind that part of the function of the according to phrase is specifically to GRANT some greater or lesser (but, after all, some) degree of credibility and/or authority to whomever it is you are talking about. –  John M. Landsberg Sep 4 '13 at 19:30

You are talking in third person in a passive aggressive way when you say "according to me". You might as well say Mari-Lou thinks... Which is also grammatically correct but a little weird. "According to me" should be kept in the closet and used for smart-alecky answers.

Example: "According to me, you should put on your underwear before your pants."

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But I'm British - my pants are my underwear! ;-) –  TrevorD Sep 4 '13 at 12:39
    
@TrevorD - you could have said "According to me, my pants are my underwear, but I'm British!" –  RyeɃreḁd Sep 4 '13 at 15:02
    
@RyeBread That doesn't make sense. I might have said: "I'm British and according to OED, pants are underwear." –  Mari-Lou A Sep 4 '13 at 16:39
    
@Mari-LouA - it does make sense. Because I am inferring a smart-alecky tone. Trevor made a comment about my example in a nice way. My comment was him doing the same thing but with more of a smart-ass tone. –  RyeɃreḁd Sep 4 '13 at 16:43

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