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In high school we learned to say "than I" and "as I" because you could potentially add an "am" to the end of the sentence. Examples:

"She is smarter than I." (Think: "...than I am.")
"He is as tall as I." (Think "...as I am.")

So analogously, shouldn't it be "like I" as well:

"He is sincere, just like I." (Think: "... like I am.") But universally, it seems that we use "like me". Where does this reasoning break down? Is there history here?

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possible duplicate of When do I use "I" instead of "me?" –  kiamlaluno Feb 26 '11 at 23:53
The rule is bogus. Both forms are standard, and the accusative is actually more common than the nominative. –  RegDwigнt Feb 27 '11 at 10:13
I am from Holland, so not a native speaker of English. Here we have the same problem. When you are looking cross-linguistically, looking at German and Dutch is also interesting. Hij is beter dan ik/mij. ( He is better than I/me). "Dan ik" is still widely used, but dan mij (than me) is growing stronger, especially in the Cities. "Than me" is not corrected at primary school, so I expect it to be accepted in 1-2 generations. Like in English. But dan mij (than me) is practically never heard at e.g. universities. German: Er ist besser als ich. (They have done away with denn "than" altogether, only –  user33116 Jan 3 '13 at 9:19

3 Answers 3

up vote 12 down vote accepted

The rules you were taught are artificial. It is very rare to hear "as I" used in the way you have it in your examples out in the wild. It may be correct according to prescriptive English grammar, but it is not idiomatic to the language until you add the extra bits. One would say either:

She is smarter than me.


She is smarter than I am.

The same pattern emerges when looking at like. Used by itself, in idiomatic English, you would use the object pronoun when the word is used alone, and the subject pronoun when the phrase extends into a sentence-like structure.

Despite the vain longings of those few people who want English to be nice and neat (and have a one-to-one correspondence with Latin and Greek), our language has its wrinkles and inconsistencies. This is one of them.

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I would agree entirely. In fact I would suggest that idiomatic English is reasonably consistent with this, using the objective case in such phrases when there is no following verb, as in "She's as tall as him", "Oh no, it's them", or "'How many of you are there?' 'Only me.'" I think the accepted answer here was wrong. I personally regard anybody talking to me using a subject pronoun in such cases without a following verb as making a hypercorrection as jarring as "She will speak to you and I" –  Henry Feb 27 '11 at 1:06
@Henry is spot on. In English, accusative pronouns are the default; it's not an inconsistency at all. See one, two. –  RegDwigнt Feb 27 '11 at 10:19
I strongly disagree. If someone asks for "John" on the phone, I say "this is he" without batting an eyelash. I couldn't force "this is him" out of my mouth if I tried. I also use predicate nominatives in other circumstances where I'm sure it sounds awkward these days: "it was they". –  Fixee Feb 27 '11 at 15:49
@Fixee: you have been taught quite thoroughly, then. I have only known one person who habitually used the subject form in everyday conversation, and she was (perhaps not surprisingly) an elementary school teacher of a certain age. As Neil notes in his answer, English is not alone in this usage -- we have company in the Scandinavian Germanics as well as the Romance languages. –  bye Feb 27 '11 at 18:55
@Stan: I'm a professor (of Computer Science) and I definitely speak "properly" when lecturing. But I'm also a rockclimber, and with my buddies I switch into a pretty crude vernacular that my wife wouldn't approve of. So I guess how I speak depends on the context. –  Fixee Feb 28 '11 at 1:44

As with many prescriptive "rules", the rule you mention (a) generally does not reflect the actual usage of educated native speakers, and (b) is based on spurious argumentation.

The argument is usually based on a couple of (probably largely unfounded) presumptions, such as:

  • that "He's as tall as [me/I]" somehow has to be "short" for "He's as tall as [I am]"
  • that sentences like "He's as tall as me" somehow introduce some ambiguity that can't be resolved by context/other natural means.

The spuriousness of the first suggestion can be shown, for example, if you look cross-linguistically. In French, "plus/aussi grand que *je" is not grammatical, and no French speaker is suggesting that the grammatical version "plus/aussi grand que [moi]" is short for "plus/aussi grand que [je (ne) suis]".

In the second case, did your teacher or does grammar book actually point to a documented case where an real-life misunderstanding occurred because of "as/than me" being used where it "should" have been "as/than I"-- and if it does, does it explain why saying "as/than I", rather than "as/than I am" (etc) is the best solution?

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Are we really going to define correct English as requiring the potential to misunderstand? Me sure me could say sumthing yousing awfull grammer and you could still understand it. But it's not pleasant to read somehow. –  Fixee Feb 27 '11 at 15:52

It seems to me that there are two primary reasons using particular grammar, syntax, etc. in our communications.

  1. To provide a message to the listener or reader. As a former teacher kids would often come up with statements like "Him and me went to the mall last night." From what that kids said it is obvious what was meant, so I wouldn't correct a kid for making those errors.

  2. To make an impression. If I were interviewing a candidate for a professional position (and not just an English teacher position!) I would, unconsciously at least, rate that applicant lower were that person to use English as improperly as the kid in my first example did (or, as did the kid in my first example?)

Regardless of which is the proper way to end my last sentence in 2., I'm not concerned because I would find either acceptable enough, and the meaning is clear.

As teachers we often have asked ourselves how best to teach kids when it's important to use "proper English" and when it isn't. Does a science teacher mark down a kid for poor grammar in an essay on a science test, even if the meaning of their response is clear? Perhaps the meaning was clear this time, but what about next time? Should we at least correct the student's English without taking points off, or write on the paper something like "Please try to write more clearly and use proper English, because it was hard for me to understand your answer." How much trouble is it worth for a teacher to spend extra time trying to understand the meaning of a student response when the answer is written in poor English?

Many questions...

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