in Geekiness, Rants and Raves, Writing

On the Proper Use of ‘Me’ and ‘I’

Listen people, this is easy: you do not always use the word “I” when speaking of yourself and another person.

I’m going to be called a grammar Nazi for devoting an entire weblog entry to this, but it’s driving me crazy. Over the past week I’ve seen this error a dozen times, and from smart people who should know better.

What am I talking about? We’re taught from a young age that it’s polite to say:

Jane and I are going to the store.

That’s well and good for the nominative case, when you and Jane are the subjects of the sentence. But it does not work if you and Jane are the objects of the sentence. This sentence is an abomination:

The man gave ice cream to Jane and I.

This is WRONG, and it hurts my brain. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard. I’m serious. It drives me insane. Would you say this?

The man gave ice cream to I.

Of course not! Politeness does not take precedence over grammar. The proper sentence in this case is:

The man gave ice cream to me.

And if you’re talking about yourself and another person, then the proper form is:

The man gave ice cream to Jane and me.

I know that sounds wrong, but it’s better than “Jane and I”. Far better. And if you really want it to sound better, then ditch your notions of the polite and say:

The man gave ice cream to me and Jane.

However, the real answer to your dilemma is to use the handy clear and concise first-person plural.

The man gave ice cream to us.

Isn’t that nice?

Are you confused? Here’s an easy way to tell whether you should use “Jane and I” or “Jane and me”. Ask yourself: if this sentence were only about me, which would I use, “I” or “me”? Use the same pronoun when talking about yourself and another person. Seriously. That’s the rule.

You make Kris and I weep when you do this.

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54 Comments

  1. Thank goodness it bothers someone else besides me. That last sentence is indeed painful to read. I can hear mother pontificating as I read.

  2. Thank you ! I hate this.

    I also hate that people constantly use the conjuction of “There’s” whether in a singular or plural situation. I even hear this on the evening news. Example: There’s too many people in this town. WRONG. Would you really say There IS too many people? No. You would say There ARE too many people. Pure laziness.

  3. I’ve considered doing a blog entry on this, too. I think it’s a mistake of the educated–people learn the rule without being taught that, like many English grammar rules, it doesn’t always apply. It’s a strange one, though. You say “me” in the correct place and risk being thought uninformed by the partially informed. Annoying.

  4. Hopefully, I don’t do what you’re talking about here. (I almost wrote “hear” for that last word — so many possible typos, so little time.)

    Maybe you (or I) should do a blog entry devoted to another of my pet peeves: confusing “your” with “you’re”. I don’t know how many times on my signature tags group, graphics have come through saying “your welcome” (or some members have typed that in after being thanked for their graphics) rather than “you’re welcome.” It bugs the heck out of me! Naturally, I refuse to use the grammatically-aggravating tags!

  5. I should note that I’m not singling anyone out. Many people make this mistake. I’ve just seen or heard it a dozen times in the past week, so it’s especially fresh in my mind.

  6. My own personal theory is that there is a tie-in between right- or left-brained abilities and spelling and grammar. Also that there is an interesting mix of right- and left-brained people in our family!

  7. hiya! good explanation, this definitely bugs me too. the one thing I don’t get here is why you say “me and Jane” is better than “Jane and me” — I always thought it was better the other way around. I can’t seem to find rules about that though. any sources? just curious.

  8. I’m not saying that “me and Jane” is correct etiquette — it just sounds better to most ears. There’s no grammatical difference between “me and Jane” and “Jane and me”, as far as I know. Grammar doesn’t care about the order of the pair, but etiquette does.

  9. Thankyou for this post. All I knew was that ms-word was constantly putting squiggly lines below the ‘I’s and ‘ME’s in my docuements. Now I know when to use ME. I always want to use ‘I’. That must be the mistake that is driving you crazy. I will try to do better!

  10. OMG! FINALLY someone else that is bothered by this. What really bothers me is that some of the people I hear say or write it the wrong way, graduated from college! How did they get away with this without being corrected? Anyway, thanks for letting me rant about this.

  11. I am more peeved by the newly-common use of the word “myself” (or any other reflexive pronoun) when they mean “me”. “You can give the ice cream with hot fudge to Jeff and the one without nuts to myself.” That should be “me”. Maybe we shouldn’t let pro athletes model our grammar for us anymore.

  12. YES! For example, under photo captions, people will put “a picture of Bob and I.” Shouldn’t it say bob and me…A picture of Bob…A picture of ME?

  13. YES! For example, under photo captions, people will put “a picture of Bob and I.” Shouldn’t it say bob and me…A picture of Bob…A picture of ME?

  14. oh it’s so wonderful when I stumble across other twisted little grammar pedants like me! I know a girl who has just obtained a masters degree and likes rubbing it in the face of us uneducated types. She labelled one of her photographs from her graduation “Dad and I”. Needless to say I emailed her with a rant about as long as this blog just to put her right. And BOY it felt good!

  15. The problem is EVERYONE is using the “me-I thing”
    incorrectly…newscasters, teachers, I just wrote paper and Microsoft word underlined an objective me in green indicating it as incorrect and corrected with an
    I.

  16. I’m translating a poem from Spanish to English, trying to maintain the rhyme and metrics.
    I came accross a verse I translated as:
    “The architect was I, for I plotted my journey”
    One of my critics remarked that to be gramatically correct should be:
    “The architect was me, for I plotted my journey”
    Euphonically I prefer the sound of my first choice.
    Would someone comment?
    If you write to me [email protected] I will send you the entire poem by Amado Nervo, in Spanish and in my English translation.
    Write Subject as “Peacefully”
    Thank you.

  17. So now I am going to be really annoying but can someone tell me if the following are both correct:

    Me and Jane are going to the store.
    Jane and I are going to the store.

  18. No, Maureen, the first sentence is not grammatically correct as you wouldn’t say, ‘Me am going to the store.’

    Anyway, I’m glad there are other people who get annoyed by the whole ‘I’ and ‘Me’ thing. It really irritates me when a person uses it constantly – regardless of wether it is correct or not – and believes it makes him/her superior to us normal, working class people who don’t talk proper…

  19. No, Maureen, the first sentence is not grammatically correct as you wouldn’t say, ‘Me am going to the store.’

    Anyway, I’m glad there are other people who get annoyed by the whole ‘I’ and ‘Me’ thing. It really irritates me when a person uses it constantly – regardless of wether it is correct or not – and believes it makes him/her superior to us normal, working-class people who don’t talk proper…

  20. Thanks so much! Been studying for SAT, and getting that kind of question wrong, couldn’t figure out why, couldn’t find the rules anywhere….

  21. Oooh! Now do one about the proper use of “myself!” I’m in the military, and everyone up and down the chain of command seems to think that “myself” is a perfectly fine substitute for “me.” EVEN OFFICERS (all officers have a 4-year college degree)!! I’ve been thinking about adding a tag to my signature detailing its proper use.

    By the way, in school I was taught that “I” and “me” always come last in a series. “John, Jane, and I went to the store.” “They bought it for John, Jane, and me.” A few grammar posts I’ve found on the web seem to support this. Whether it is an actual rule or just proper etiquette, I can’t say for sure.

  22. Hurrah, finally a lot of other people who get annoyed about me and I. The problem in my view is that people think it sounds posh to say I when they haven’t a clue why they are really using it. I also agree with the person who pointed out how the ‘informed’, are deemed ‘ill informed’ by the ‘ill informed’ when they use the correct word!.

  23. You guys are entirely too anal.

    Grammar is a myth. As long as you understand what people are saying, it is correct grammar.

    Get off your high horse. Smart, Dumb, and average alike don’t know all of the rules, and frankly I think it is something you should point out to people outside of an English class. I mean really, who are you to make people feel inferior or embarassed for writing here instead of hear when you damn well know what they meant.

  24. I have this question, please help me 😀

    No one is (more sorrier than me) that you missed the awards ceremony.

    (A) More sorrier than me
    (B) sorrier than I
    (C) more sorry like myself
    (D) sorrier but me

    What choice should I select for the “more sorrier than me” part in the sentence ?

  25. grammar is good it is ur friend like water or tacos. but i do agree with the girl who said some people are too anal, and keep correcting everyone too often, having been in a relationship with one in the past, i know it is kind of a damper!
    – light bulbs, cellphone, september, conferences, spaghetti. I think i’ve made myself clear!

  26. Fantastic discussions guys.. am just pleased that while trying to finalise a chapter for a book I’m helping to write that you guys came to the rescue…. it’s after 10pm and my head is foggy.. so foggy that I thought my ‘critical buddy/editor’ was correct when she changed a sentence from
    ..it surprised Jane and me TO
    ..it surprised Jane and I

    I will nw change it back to the first sentence and go to bed!
    ‘おやすみなさいーoyasuminasai- goodnight!’

  27. have another question . . .

    He’s more patient than I am.
    He’s more patient than I.
    He’s more patient than me.

    my guess is that the middle one is wrong and the other two are OK. Am I right?

  28. Re: entry 4/18/07 by GILBER
    Euphonically and otherwise, “The architect was I” is correct. It has to do with transitive and intransitive verbs in English. Simply put, if one should not say “Me was the architect” then one should not say “The architect was me”. Although poetry and poetic translation may take liberties with English usage, in this case the proper use is to the translation’s advantage.
    I only passed this website because I just sat through my son’s 4th grade class where the teacher is giving the whole class incorrect info on the use of “I vs me”. It’s just NOT that complicated. Makes me nuts.

  29. While collaborating on some business writing, I was surprised by my colleague’s claim that gender-neutral writing allows “they” to be used as a singular pronoun as well as plural.

    Example: “Once the worker discovers a safety violation, they should notify their supervisor.”

    I have never heard elsewhere that this practice is now acceptable. Perhaps I am behind the times. I don’t know if this new expanded use of “they” is commonly accepted these days, or if my colleague is making an empty claim. Comments?

  30. While collaborating on some business writing, I was surprised by my colleague’s claim that gender-neutral writing allows “they” to be used as a singular pronoun as well as plural.

    Example: “Once the worker discovers a safety violation, they should notify their supervisor.”

    I have never heard elsewhere that this practice is now acceptable. Perhaps I am behind the times. I don’t know if this new expanded use of “they” is commonly accepted these days, or if my colleague is making an empty claim. Comments?

  31. thank you! my brother-in-law swears that it’s always “I”. we have argued the point and he refuses to say he’s WRONG!

  32. I hate it when me hears… I et dinner, and I seen a good show.I had done seen it once.My friend Tom give me the tickets..So, Tim and me went together..And the worst…. No, I ain’t never seen none…I actually hear professionals using seen, when I think they saw..Okay, don’t yell at me. Only having some fun.

  33. What about the “which” and “that” thing? Too often I read and hear “which” when someone should be using “that.” It appears that very learned folks such as journalists, authors, lawyers and professors are confusing the two words. Isn’t there a hard and fast rule on this or are we dummying down?

  34. What about the “which” and “that” thing? It drives me crazy to read and hear “which” when someone should be using “that.” Even very learned folks such as journalists, authors, lawyers and professors are confusing the two words. Isn’t there a hard and fast rule on this or are we dummying down?

  35. Well, if we’re all venting, further or farther?
    I get confused on which one to use. For my defense, english is my second language.

  36. Thank you so much! This drives me insane too! I’ve been trying to nicely correct a certain person I know. Now I can just pass along your website and hopefully the problem will start to correct itself!

  37. I and Me. Fingernails scratching across a chalkboard…Ewww! I learned these rules in the 4th grade! I don’t know of any hard and fast rules about ‘me and Jane’, or visa versa. But, I always went with, ‘me and (a group)’, i.e. the team, my friends. Who was it, in this forum,that said “…too anal…”?”, correcting what’s wrong?

    Are you serious?

  38. Thank you very much for taking the time to explain the proper use of “I” and “Me”. Now, if you be so kind to do the same with “Then” and “Than”, I will be forever grateful!!!

  39. Sadly, my coworker, a former English teacher, insists that sentences MUST end in “I” instead of “me.” No wonder people cannot get this correct if even our teachers get it wrong.