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I am writing a technical letter for my (and my lab partner’s) senior design project (we are engineering majors) and I would like some help on properly phrasing part of the letter.

The project belongs to my partner and I. I was always taught in school that in cases of dual possession, I should always proceed the other possessors.

Suppose for a moment that the project was just mine. Then in that case, the sentence below would be grammatically correct.

Attached to this email is my project selection.

Now if the project only belonged to my partner, this sentence would also be grammatically correct.

Attached to this email is my partner's project selection.

However, since this project belongs to both of us, I need to phrase the sentence accordingly.

The sentence below doesn’t appear to be correct in my opinion.

Attached to this email is my partner and I's project selection.

This one sounds better, but doesn’t follow the rules I was taught.

Attached to this email is mine and my partner’s project selection.

So which phrase (if any) should I use to be grammatically correct? Thanks

marked as duplicate by Mitch, Lynn, Hellion, tchrist, choster Sep 20 '13 at 19:57

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  • I think 'my partner and my project selection' is technically correct, but I'm not sure. I'd probably chicken out and go with 'My partner and I have ...waffle... and our project selection is attached. – ColinM Sep 19 '13 at 23:54
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  • By the way, why not say 'we', 'our' and 'us' instead? You will help the reader a lot that way. – Kris Sep 20 '13 at 11:14
  • I cannot “belong to my partner and *I”. It can only belong to my partner and *me”! You don’t say that things belong to I, now do you? :) Also, PLEASE STOP USING backticks ON ELU! It looks just terrible. We usually use italics for the use–mention distinction, etc etc. – tchrist Sep 20 '13 at 15:32
  • I think this is one of those cases where the grammar pedants invent a problem that doesn't really exist and then fail to propose a satisfactory solution. If you don't like the natural everyday phrasing "me and my partner's project selection", then just re-write the sentence in some other natural way. I'm not sure what it really buys you to bicker about which of various unnatural-sounding solutions is "technically correct". – Neil Coffey Sep 20 '13 at 16:03
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Whenever you want to write "he/him and me/I", reverse the two pronouns and see if it sounds right.

Also, omit the "he/him" and see what that sounds like.

Your sentence would read "The project belongs to I and my partner" (obviously wrong), or "The project belongs to I" (obviously wrong).

Another idea: Write out both cases:

"Attached to this email is mine and my partner's project selection" becomes

"Attached to this email is mine project selection." and

"Attached to this email is my partner's project selection".

Can you see what's wrong?

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[Edit: I've updated this answer since my original post to take into account the comment below about the relative use of "... and I's". My original observation was that the formula with "... and I's" was probably less common than "me and ...'s", but this may not be the case.]

I suspect that the natural forms that you will actually find people using much of the time are one of the following:

Attached is me and my partner's project selection.

Attached is my partner and I's project selection.

(Doing some quick Google searches suggest that both of these formulae are used. I don't have to hand, but would be interested if anybody can point to, more concrete data on the relevant frequency of these and their frequency versus other alternative wordings.)

Now, using one of these in a formal context does mean accepting some forms that some prescriptivists potentially don't like:

  • Not all prescriptivists like the fact that English 's is applied to an entire coordinated noun phrase such as [me and my partner], and so will insist on contorting the sentence to avoid this, e.g. by saying "mine and my partner's...", "my partner's and my..." (which is fine on one level, but arguably these could be interpreted as meaning something slightly different and aren't very common forms overall in everyday use);

  • Not all prescriptivists like using the form "me" when they can't understand why this form is being used instead of I (usually: when it isn't overtly being used as the object of a verb or preposition), and so of the two, would probably outlaw the phrase "me and my partner".

So if you feel pressure to conform to the above prescriptions, you would need to re-write the sentence some other way (e.g. "My partner and I have made our project selection, which I attach here"). Otherwise, the natural use is simply to add 's to the entire noun phrase [me and my partner] or [my partner and I].

My personal intuition is that the variant with "My partner and I's" sounds odd and that "me and my partner would be more natural". However, Google searches suggest that the latter is also common and possibly moreso under some circumstances.

  • I question whether “me and my partner’s” is really any more common or natural to most people than “my partner and I’s”. Certainly they're equally (un)natural and (in)correct to me, and I hear people saying the latter more than the former, I think. No doubt the latter stems from over- and misapplying more or less random prescriptivist rules, but if doing so ends up making the ‘wrong’ (prescriptivist) phrase as natural as the ‘wrong’ (descriptivist) one, then surely both are equally useful. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 20 '13 at 21:41
  • Thanks -- doing a few more searches does suggest that the variant with "my partner and I's" is more common than I thought, and I've updated my answer. As you say, this form may have come about by the (mis)application of the prescriptive rule to prefer the variant with "I" without heed to the fact that prescriptive advocates of such a rule would probably outlaw the use of 's across the whole phrase in the first place. – Neil Coffey Sep 21 '13 at 0:07
  • That said, there is just the proviso that if you do a search for e.g. "my brother and I's", "my partner and I's", a good number of the results are discussing the word usage rather than being uses of the phrase in actual usage. But a good number do also appear to be real-life uses. – Neil Coffey Sep 21 '13 at 0:08
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Neither is grammatically correct. The test is to remove one, then try the sentence.

"The project belongs to my partner." Ok.

"The project belongs to I." Not Ok.

What would be correct is to say "The project belongs to me and my partner."

For your second sentence, i think it sounds better if you use the word "our" and reverse the sentence order. "Our project selection is attached to this email."

Source: http://oxforddictionaries.com/us/words/i-or-me

Source: http://babel.ucsc.edu/Jorge/ladusaw.html

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    But this "test" is based on the a priori premise that non-coordinated elements must be the same as coordinated elements, and the actual data available suggests that this premise is false... – Neil Coffey Sep 20 '13 at 0:08
  • In other words, what you're really talking about is an arbitrary preference/prescription, not about an actual test of anything. If you want to base your choice on the results of "tests" on the language, then you have to respect what the actual data tells you. You can choose to ignore that data and simply prescribe an arbitrary preference. But you can't have it both ways! – Neil Coffey Sep 20 '13 at 0:09
  • I have updated my answer with a source from Oxford Dictionaries. – Lumberjack Sep 20 '13 at 0:29
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    @NeilCoffey: The test is not about descriptively determining what the average speaker actually uses in speech. It is instead a classical prescriptive way of testing consistency and what "feels" good. Because both are considered virtues in stylistic advice, it is a perfectly fine argument in a prescriptive evaluation of a construction. It may not be the only argument to consider, and some people might not agree. But that's OK. Don't be fooled by the different senses of "grammatical" as used by (some) linguists on the one hand and as used by (some) other people on the other. This answer is OK. – Cerberus Sep 20 '13 at 2:26
  • @Cerberus OK, I can see that point of view -- but in that case, I think the answer needs prefixing with these provisos. Otherwise, it just sounds like a non sequitur. (Well, it still does, really, but that's what most prescriptive rules are...) – Neil Coffey Sep 20 '13 at 15:17

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