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When do I use “I” instead of “me?”

A friend of mine asked me for advice about an e-mail he was writing. There was a sentence like this:

I and my partners we are interested in investing in your product.

I figured it was wrong, so I suggested:

I and my partners are interested in investing in your product.

This looks grammatical to me but sounds strange. Also, I have seen a lot of people writing this:

Me and my partners we are interested in investing in your product.

which I believe is not grammatical.

So, which one of the options above is correct? Also, what would be a better choice of words?

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marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, aedia λ, Jon Purdy, Mitch, RiMMER Mar 1 '12 at 12:29

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I and someone is grammatical; me and someone is not strictly grammatical, but is very common; I and someone we is not grammatical, and sounds wrong to native English speakers. –  Peter Shor Feb 29 '12 at 14:12
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also related: Which is correct, “you and I” or “you and me”? –  aedia λ Feb 29 '12 at 16:48
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Your last sentence is perfectly grammatical, despite what others have said, providing you use a comma to set off the appositive: “Me and my partners, we are interested in your product.” See my answer for details. It’s consider polite to put yourself last, but grammatically it can go eit her way. –  tchrist Feb 29 '12 at 16:48
    
@FumbleFingers: that question is asking something entirely different than this one. The point of this question is not the I/me distinction, but the peculiar repeated pronoun in constructions such as "Him and I, we [did such and such]". –  Marthaª Feb 29 '12 at 20:09
    
I think it's important not to hijack the word "grammatical" when what is really meant is "advocated by some prescriptivists"... –  Neil Coffey Feb 29 '12 at 20:11

5 Answers 5

up vote 13 down vote accepted

"I and someone are interested" is grammatically correct. It is the convention in English that when you list several people including yourself, you put yourself last, so you really should say "Someone and I are interested." "Someone and I" is the subject of the sentence, so you should use the subjective case "I" rather than the objective "me". "Someone and I" clearly means two people, so you should use "are" and not "is". If it was "Someone or I ..." then you would use "is", because only one person is interested, either "someone" or "I".

It is not uncommon to hear people say "Me and someone are ...", but this is wrong because it's the wrong case. When an educated person hears "Me and Billy is going to the ball game", he immediately thinks this is either a child or a very uneducated person speaking.

"I and someone we ..." is incorrect because it is redundant. "We" is simply another way of saying "I and someone". It adds no new information to the sentence, and so there is no reason to include it. You can't just string together alternative ways of expressing the same idea: If you really need it for clarity or emphasis, you have to surround it with some additional words, like a "that is", or sometimes just punctuation that show its purpose in the sentence. You could say, "We, that is, Bob and I, are interested ..."

All that said, "I and someone" or "Someone and I" sounds strange to me, and I suspect most English speakers, because it is an unusual use of the word "someone". When "someone" is used in a list with identifiers of other people, we usually say "someone else". Like, "Bob and someone else are interested ..." rather than "Bob and someone are interested ..." (I have no idea why this is so; it's just the convention.) "Someone" without "else" is normally only used when it's the only person: "Someone is interesteed ..."

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This - what I said, but articulated better. +1 –  Rory Alsop Feb 29 '12 at 15:09
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I disagree with your second paragraph. I think "Me and my dad went to a ball game" sounds colloquial, but not childish or uneducated. –  ruakh Feb 29 '12 at 18:21
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To address the part of the question about a better turn of phrase, I would say "My partners and I are..." –  user14070 Feb 29 '12 at 20:49
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@Jay: Of course, even calling it "a grammar error" is a subjective point. –  ruakh Mar 1 '12 at 15:43
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@Jay: I know exactly what you're referring to, and it's completely subjective. "Prescriptive grammar", with its penchant for rules based on abstract logic, on foreign languages, on historical usage, on formal written usage, and on personal whim, generally considers it an error. (In this case, the usual justification is abstract logic: we say "I went" and "he went", not *"me went" and *"him went", so supposedly this means that we should have to say "he and I went" instead of "me and him went".) But "descriptive grammar", which attempts to determine the rules by which people [continued] –  ruakh Mar 2 '12 at 16:17

To add to the other answers, a trick for the native speaker to see whether to use "I" or "me" in a sentence is to take away the "someone" from the sentence and see which option sounds best.

Do we say

My partners and I are interested in investing in your product,

or

My partners and me are interested in investing in your product?

Take away "My partners" and see which one sounds best:

I am interested in investing in your product,

or

Me am interested in investing in your product?

The first option sounds best, so we say

My partners and I are interested in investing in your product.


EDIT:

I should have known this trick was already on this site... See the linked questions.

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+1 This is a good rule of thumb, but not a grammatical rule. –  Marcin Feb 29 '12 at 19:00
    
Of course it only works if the person realizes that "Me am interested" is not correct. But many people do immediately realize that that is wrong, but when the subject is made more complex, they get confused. (i.e. I agree it's a handy brain helper, but it doesn't prove anything.) –  Jay Feb 29 '12 at 20:43
    
The problem is that changing from a singular to a plural moves the subject node from "I" to "Bill and I". I am not convinced that when "I" is not the subject node that it isn't treated as any other instance of "I" that is not a subject, and converted to "me". So "Bill and me ask your permission" is probably the only correct construction, while "Bill and I" is an incorrect hypercorrection (which sounds good today, because people have been brainwashed to do it by this phony rule for a long time now). –  Ron Maimon Mar 2 '12 at 6:43

Let me add one possibility no one has mentioned: an appositive.

  • Bill and Mark, they’re good chaps.
  • Me, I’m thinking of staying.
  • Me myself, I’m thinking of staying.
  • Your father and me, we’re thinking of staying.
  • My partners and me, we’re interested in investing in your product.

All those are grammatical.

The first part of the appositive is not even in the nominative case for pronouns. It might not even be reflexive even if it includes the speaker.

You see this sort of construct in French, too, where the pronoun case for the appositive works the same as in English, deviating from the nominative:

  • Moi, je pense que ...
  • Moi même, je pense que ...
  • Ton père et moi, nous allons ...

In Spanish, however, the nominative is used for the appositive, unlike in English or French:

  • Yo, yo pienso que ...
  • Yo mismo, yo pienso que ...
  • Tu padre y yo, nosotros vamos ...

Can’t tell you why.

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I think this is commonly seen but in my opinion it's only grammatical (in many cases) if it has a comma, unlike the examples in the original question which lack it. –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Feb 29 '12 at 17:37
    
@Mr.ShinyandNew安宇 Of course a careful writer controls his comma placement, but speakers do not. Transcribed speech is often lacking the little niceties of formal written language. I would never call My partners and me we’re interested in investing in your product. without the comma agrammatical; merely a bit sloppy. –  tchrist Feb 29 '12 at 17:46

Describe the other person: 'A colleague / a friend / a business associate and I are interested in investing in your product.'

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That would certainly be better. But I don't think "someone" is grammatically incorrect, just unusual and unnecessarily vague. Well, it could be appropriate if the "someone" who is investing wants to remain anonymous for some reason. –  Jay Feb 29 '12 at 15:06
    
@Jay: I’m not at all sure that the use of ‘someone’ in this context is grammatical. Neither the Corpus of Contemporary American English nor the British National Corpus has any records of ‘some’ being used in coordination with ‘I’. –  Barrie England Feb 29 '12 at 15:20
    
I used "someone" as a placeholder, this is not the real sentence (which uses "my partners" in place of "someone"). –  brandizzi Feb 29 '12 at 15:24
    
@brandizzi: Thanks for clarifying. –  Barrie England Feb 29 '12 at 15:31
    
I agree that "someone" sounds very awkward here. But I'm hard pressed to think of a rule that it violates. Is there such a rule, or is it just ... not done? (In speech I'd probably say something more like "Another guy and I are ...". But that wouldn't do for formal writing.) –  Jay Feb 29 '12 at 20:46

I was always taught that you should always put yourself last, which means the correct grammar here is none of your options, but instead it should be:

Someone and I are interested in investing in your product.

The options including "we" are not correct - that structure just doesn't make sense here.

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That's a silly rule, and it has nothing to do with grammar. –  rdhs Feb 29 '12 at 14:51
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@RoryAlsop: 'I and Eric' and 'Eric and I' are equally grammatical. Which you use is a matter of style, convention and courtesy, not of grammar. –  Barrie England Feb 29 '12 at 15:04
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@Rory Alsop: ‘The Cambridge Guide to English Usage’ confirms that when ‘I’ is used in coordination with a noun or another pronoun, ‘politeness dictates that it comes second’. Politeness, not grammar. The article continues ‘These conventions apply in standard written texts, although they may be relaxed in conversation. They also tend to be set aside when ‘I’ is coupled with a bulky coordinate.’ –  Barrie England Feb 29 '12 at 15:28
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@BarrieEngland Maybe so, but any teacher of English who does not teach these sort of conventions is, I think, not doing his job. Like, "Jack is a <n-word for black person>" is completely grammatically correct, but surely an English teacher who does not make clear that this phrasing is considered extremely rude in most contexts is seriously mis-informing his students. (And may be responsible for resultant social condemnation and physical injuries.) –  Jay Feb 29 '12 at 15:29
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@Jay You really think I and a friend is on the level of a racial slur? –  rdhs Feb 29 '12 at 15:33

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