Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

From some comments in the answers for common English usage mistakes, there's confusion around the usage of I vs. me:

While the sentence, "the other attendees are myself and Steve," is agreed to be incorrect, there's confusion about whether the correct form is "the other attendees are me and Steve" or "the other attendees are Steve and I."

(I've always used the heuristic of removing the other people from the sentence, so I always thought "the other attendee is me" would be correct, instead of "the other attendee is I." Is this true, or am I using a flawed heuristic?)

share|improve this question
    
When mentioning other people, always remember to mention yourself last. It's manners. –  Thursagen May 6 '11 at 8:18
7  
It takes Herculean effort on my part not to assault physically those people who say "between he and I". –  Nick Hodges May 10 '11 at 17:26
1  
The "rules" are based on inherently flawed heuristics. –  Neil Coffey Sep 22 '11 at 0:07

6 Answers 6

up vote 30 down vote accepted

Your method of removing the others is indeed correct. At least, that is what I used to do when I was in high school.

Always try using "I" or "me" in the singular, for the same sentence. For instance, people might say: "Robert and me are going to town." Which is wrong, because one does not say "Me am going to town." Therefore the correct way to say it is "Robert and I are going to town."

However, this sentence is also wrong: "The police arrested Robert and I", because if it were in the singular, one would not say "the police arrested I", it is, "the police arrested me." Therefore one should say, "The police arrested Robert and me."

share|improve this answer
7  
Teachers I had were always telling us to use "Robert and I" not "Me and Robert"; but slavish adherence to this rule (without understanding it) means that many people are frightened to use "me" anywhere in a sentence ("because my teacher told me not to") and they incorrectly use "I" instead. Or "myself", which is just as bad. –  njd Aug 9 '10 at 16:22
    
Yes, I also had teachers that forced me to use "I" when I should have used "me". I was incorrect until 5th form (grade 11) when I had a Greek English teacher who taught me all I know about grammar (well, I learnt more an university and after). It is better form to use "Robert and me" or "Robert and I", because it is good mannered to put yourself last. But it's more a manners thing than a grammatical thing. –  Vincent McNabb Aug 11 '10 at 10:05
4  
people whose first language has different declinations for nouns based on the case (nominative and accusative in this case) have it easier to know when to use “I” and when to use “me” :) –  ΤΖΩΤΖΙΟΥ Aug 22 '10 at 23:14
    
Yes -- in those languages that DO have declinations. But... the fact that English doesn't detracts from rather than supports the rationale behind the "rules" in question, and explains why the rules don't actually reflect how English works. –  Neil Coffey Sep 22 '11 at 0:09
4  
This rule is incorrect. The phrase "Me and Bob go to the store" has a subject which is "me and Bob". If you omit Bob, you make the subject "me", in which case it turns to "I". But it is a consistent rule that only when "I" is the only subject, so that it occupies the subject node of the sentence, that it appears as "I", and in all other cases, it appears as "me". This would make "Bill and me are happy" correct, and "Bill and I are happy" incorrect. The way to see that "Bill and I are happy" is a hypercorrection is to reverse the order: "I and Bill are happy" sounds awful. –  Ron Maimon Mar 2 '12 at 6:45

If a pronoun is the subject of a verb, then you use I. Otherwise you use me.

Exceptions:

  • If it is the object of a linking verb (such as be), traditional grammar says to use I but this is very formal and use of me is extremely widespread in all but the most formal contexts.
  • Myself is used as the object of a reflexive verb (“I hurt myself”), as an intensifier (“I myself will go”), and can be used in absolutive clauses (“for my wife and myself it was a happy time”)
share|improve this answer
3  
The last example sounded wrong to me. Could you explain why "for my wife and myself it was a happy time” would be preferred over "for my wife and me it was a happy time”? –  oosterwal Feb 3 '11 at 0:06
2  
@oosterwal, it’s an example from the Usage Note in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary entry for ‘myself’, which adds “Such uses almost always occur when the speaker or writer is referring to himself or herself as an object of discourse rather than as a participant in discourse.” –  nohat Feb 3 '11 at 0:13
    
@oosterwal: remove 'my wife and' and you get 'for myself it was a happy time'. The word 'myself' is the object of the preposition 'for'; note also the verb 'to be' ('it was'). If the sentence were 'The society gave a gift to my wife and myself' there is a reflexive implication that the speaker is part of the society, cf. 'The society gave a gift to me,' where there is no implication that the giver was involved in the giving. –  Jared Updike Feb 5 '11 at 18:06
    
This answer is wrong. –  Ron Maimon Mar 2 '12 at 6:47
    
@RonMaimon If I had said "If a pronoun is the sole subject a verb", would the answer be less objectionable? –  nohat Mar 2 '12 at 7:11

Vincent McNabb has already answered this question but I would like to add one more point.

In older-fashioned prescriptive grammars, it was stated that "I" should be used as the object of the verb "to be", so that

It is I

rather than

It is me

was held to be the correct form. This only applied to the verb "be", so that, for example

Give it to I

was never regarded as a correct form.

share|improve this answer
2  
Does this apply to the plural? "Who's there?" "It is we"? –  J.T. Grimes Aug 9 '10 at 20:32
4  
I'm not sure about that but I think that it does. As far as I can remember this whole caboodle is one of those things based on applying Latin grammar to English, but don't trust me on that. –  delete Aug 13 '10 at 14:47
    
It has to do with cases, which are rarely considered in English. –  oosterwal Feb 3 '11 at 0:10
    
You also forgot to mention that the rationale behind this rule is bollocks! –  Neil Coffey Sep 22 '11 at 0:11
    
Vincent McNabb's answer is also bollocks. –  Ron Maimon Mar 2 '12 at 6:47

This situation, where a pronoun comes after a form of the verb "to be", is called a predicate nominative. It is technically correct for formal writing, but has come to sound pompous in colloquial speech:

"Who's there?" "It is I, darling."

share|improve this answer
    
I wouldn't say pompous. To say something like, "I was her that did that", is just ungrammatical. –  Charlie Aug 10 '10 at 17:45
1  
was refering to the phrase "It is I", which does indeed sound extremely pompous. –  Anonymous Type Nov 1 '10 at 22:07
    
It sounds equally pompous if you use 'we', which is grammatically correct. "Who's there?" "It is us." –  oosterwal Feb 3 '11 at 0:08

The rule that one should use "I" whenever the first person is in the subject role is incorrect.

The correct rule is that "me" becomes "I" when the "me" is the subject node all by itself. If it is part of a clause that contains other things, and this clause is the subject, then the "I" is supposed to be "me", and it is an illiterate hypercorrection to use "I".

So the following sentence is the correct one:

  • Me and Bill worked 'til 4

This one is wrong

  • I and Bill worked 'til 4

The reason is that "I and Bill" is the subject, and the first person descriptor "I/me" is happening at a level lower than the subject. The subject is a conglomeration. When the subject is an agglomeration including "I", then "I" becomes "me". This rule is consistent, and allows for easier transformations, since the whole clause "me and Bill" can be moved to a subject as a unit without having to muck around in the interior, scanning to find the "I's" and changing them to "me's"

  • Jack, Bill, me, Harry, and Jane worked late. We asked the guard to open the door.
  • Who did the guard open the door for?
  • For Jack, Bill, me, Harry and Jane.

No internal scan required to objectify the list. It's already an object. Nobody likes to be forced to scan inside a lexical unit.

Unfortunately, the hypercorrection "Bill and I work late", has been floating around for a long time, so that it starts to sound ok too. To see that

  • "Bill and I work late"

is not grammatical, just reverse the order;

  • "I and Bill work late"

This version sounds like ungrammatical nonsense to any speaker of English. This is very strange, since the order should not matter at all.

  • "Me,Jane and Bob are happy to work here."
  • "I, Jane and Bob are happy to work here."

The second again sounds like garbage. The reason is that the construction "Bill and I worked late" has been forced down children's throats, so they accept it now, although it is, and always was, ungrammatical nonsense in English.

share|improve this answer
1  
I do, in general, agree with this analysis, but I think calling it an ungrammatical hypercorrection is perhaps overstating the case. The truth is that, of the group of people who find themselves in a position to actually make pronouncements about what is and isn't grammatical, this is a pretty minority view. –  nohat Mar 2 '12 at 7:13
    
@nohat: The thing is, those people have not given a complete specification of English grammar, so that a computer still can't read the New York Times correctly. This means that they don't know what they're talking about. –  Ron Maimon Mar 2 '12 at 13:46
    
We could just as easily argue "I and Bill" sounds like garbage because the convention of putting oneself last has been forced down children's throats. –  John Y May 8 '12 at 1:22
1  
As for the contention that credentialed grammarians are guilty of not providing enough information to make the New York Times readable by computer, how is it the fault of those who study a natural language that the language is inconsistent, constantly evolving, and doesn't even have a "full spec"? –  John Y May 8 '12 at 1:30
    
@JohnY: Yup. It's a problem. But one could still program a computer to read one version of the language, like NYT English circa 2010. –  Ron Maimon May 8 '12 at 5:10

It's not so much that there's confusion per se. It's more that the arbitrary "rules" about 'I' and 'me' being used in particular cases was arbitrarily invented and then the inventors and followers of these arbitrary rules arbitrarily became surprised/indignant when it turned out that the language doesn't behave in accordance with their made-up rules. If anything, it's the rules and followers thereof that are "confused".

share|improve this answer
    
yes, this is true, but the rules must be clearly stated. The rule is that you use "I" when it is the subject node, not when it is at a different node. –  Ron Maimon Mar 2 '12 at 6:48

protected by tchrist Aug 12 '13 at 23:08

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

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.