0

I have noticed increasing confusion with the use of the nominative and accusative forms for the first person singular. Why has this come about? I can only assume that it might be the result of childish talk from my young childhood in the fifties coming home and saying "Me and my friend went...", with the correction of our parents "Don't say me, say I", and that this stuck with some of those children who then went on to be teachers. As if "me" was a universally bad word. More recently it has been linked to the phrases "X and I" and "X and me", as if saying "X and me" is somehow offensive. So we have extremely well-educated professionals who seem to be unable to use the word "me" if it is preceded by another entity. So we hear "he said to Fred and I", for example. But what if Fred wasn't there? "he said to I"? Just imagine the sentence without the other entity. (Fred and) I will go, he said to (Fred and) me.

2
  • 1
    Can you give some evidence that this confusion is actually increasing over time? – The Photon Dec 2 '20 at 1:21
  • 1
    I'll agree that the use of the nominative in the two-person object phrases when the accusative is more appropriate is enormously (and very irritatingly) widespread. However I think you and I will be fighting a losing battle to change it. On British TV I've heard Eton educated Bear Grylls talk about "The tree house my father built for my brother and I" and the Queen's niece Lady Sarah Chatto use the same form in the same way. If toffs like that can't get it right there's no help for the rest of the population! – BoldBen Dec 2 '20 at 3:12
1

I have noticed increasing confusion with the use of the nominative and accusative forms for the first person singular. Why has this come about?

I think you have started listening more and therefore observed more, rather than the incidence increasing.

The original increase took place in Middle English and was probably due to influence of French Norman.

I short, the battle is lost, and the fault is the confusion between the French, the accusative and the dative

A [in French Norman]: Who wants a unicorn for Christmas? B: "Moi!"

You will note that the French do not say "Je!"

The war and the battle for the use of the nominative, e.g. It is I as opposed to It is me, or A [in English]: Who wants a unicorn for Christmas? B: "Me!"

has been going on for a long time.

In 1877, Ebenezer Cobham Brewer wrote in the entry on “me” in “Errors of Speech and of Spelling, Volume 1”

Me, objective of ‘I’

S.Nominative I, possessive. mine, objective me;

Plu. Nominative we, possessive ours, objective us.

‘Me” is used after the verb To be, and after the words than, but, like, and as, with such pertinacity it is at least doubtful whether it is not correct. C’est moi is the French Idiom, not C'est je, and It is me is far more common than It is I. (“Me” is dative not accusative case.)

So again, the French say il est plus riche que moi, or plus riche que je ne suis, “more rich than me,” or “more rich than I am.”

At this point, it is helpful to have a look at the “official” French dictionary, Larousse:

Définitions

Moi

• S'emploie dans toutes les fonctions et positions des pronoms personnels toniques

• (apposition à je ou me,

• sujet d'infinitif ou de participe,

• après une préposition,

• #après c'est,

• dans les phrases sans verbe,

• comme complément postposé d'un impératif)

• : Moi parti, il ne restera plus personne. Vous pensez comme moi.

• Marque l'intérêt que prend quelqu'un qui donne un ordre à l'accomplissement de cet ordre : Regarde-moi comment il est habillé.

• Peut être renforcé par même, auquel il est lié par un trait d'union : Je m'étonne moi-même.

It is by no means certain that these Gallicisms should be abolished, but grammarians stoutly resist them, and the tendency of the educated classes is more and more in their disfavour. Hence all such sentences as the following are accounted as

Errors of Speech.

Who shall decide when doctors disagree,

And soundest casuists doubt, like you and me. (Pope.)

Yet oft in Holy Writ we see

E’en such weak ministers as me

May the oppression break (Sir Walter Scott),

Who’s there? It is me.

You know it was not me who told him.

It Is me that has been the ruin of you.

it is me that has brought you to this misery.

It is not me who will be a trouble to you.

It is me, your friend and master, who advises it.

(The following are not Gallicisms, but bad grammar.)

When me and Patsy went to see him, he was much better. Who’s within? Only me. Who will have this? Me.

But it were vain for you and I (me)

In single fight our strength to try (Prof. Aytoun).

(The following are correct.)

You did not suspect it to be me. You did not know it was me.

That picture Is just like me (like to....).

He likes you better than me (than he likes me).

He likes you better than I (than I like you).

It Is I, be not afraid.

(It Is quite certain that we did not use the object me after the verb to be before the Conquest. We said ic sylf hit eom (I self it am – it is myself), and Chaucer frequently writes it am I, but never it am me.

Ang.-Sax.

S. Nom. ic, gen. min, dative me, accusative mec.

Pl. Nom. we, gen. user, dative us, accusative usic.

[1] This form used in all the functions and positions of personal stressed pronouns (also known as disjunctive pronouns and emphatic) pronouns, ((i) in apposition to ‘I’ or ‘myself’,

(ii) as the subject of an infinitive or participle,

(iii) after a preposition,

(iv) after it is,

(v) in phrases, and

(vi) as postposed complement of a imperative):

Me departed, there will be no one left. (Compare with “With me gone/With my departure, there will be no one left.”)

“You think like me.”

• Moi is also used to indicate the interest taken by someone who gives an imperative: Look at me how he is dressed. (This is in the sense of “[I have looked, now you] look, how he is dressed” this construction does not exist in English – we would say “I say! Look how he is dressed.”)

• Moi can be reinforced by “-self”, to which it is linked by a hyphen: I astonished myself.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.