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I vs. Me

You don’t need to learn how to diagram a sentence to be able to learn the rules of grammar and punctuation. Let me help you use pronouns correctly without any unnecessary jargon.

First, let’s define a pronoun: a pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun. We can divide pronouns into three categories:

Subject Pronouns: I, you, he, she, it, we, they

Object Pronouns: me, you, him, her, it, us, them

Possessive Pronouns: mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, theirs

The following rule not only makes sense but is simple.

Rule: Use one of the Subject Pronouns when it is the subject of the sentence.

Example: I hit the ball.
Who hit the ball? I did. So “I” is the subject.

Usually, these subject pronouns sound right to most of us.

Example: He and I will meet at the gym.

Who will meet at the gym? He will meet at the gym. I will meet at the gym. So “he” and “I” are both the subjects.

Sometimes we want to say, “Him and me will . . .” or “Him and I will . . . .” You can remember the correct pronouns by saying each pronoun alone in the sentence. It probably won’t sound right to you to say, “Him will . . .” or “Me will . . . .”

Now, this next rule is difficult because it doesn’t sound right to most of us.

Rule: Use a Subject Pronoun following state of being verbs such as am, are, is, was, were.

Example: It is she.

Example: It was we who won the election.

Because we don’t speak this way, we can’t use our ear to help us with this rule. This is a good time to discuss the difference between spoken language and written language, particularly when it comes to tests and formal papers. We speak informally but must write more formally. Frankly, if I knock on someone’s door and am asked, “Who is it?” I am not going to say, “It is I” for fear that the person on the other side of the door will think I’m weird and never open up. However, if I am taking an exam or writing a report, I will try to spot these state of being verbs and check my pronoun usage.

The next rule does sound right to most of us.

Rule: Use one of the Object Pronouns when the pronoun is not a subject and it doesn’t follow a state of being verb.

Example: Nancy gave the gift to her.

Example: Please give it to him or me.

(Remember, leave out one of the pronouns and you will be able to hear the correct answer.) Most of us have been brainwashed to believe that “I” is always correct. Not so. “I” and “me” follow the same rules as all other pronouns. Would you say, “Please give it to I”? Of course not.

Example: Between you and me, I think Sandy cheated.

Again, me is not the subject nor does it follow one of those state of being verbs. So we must use the Object Case. (For those of you with some grammar background, me is one of the objects of the preposition.)

Once you feel confident about pronoun usage, you will find the rest of grammar to be fairly easy, I promise.

Due to the E-Newsletter's large readership, we are unable to respond to individual English usage questions.

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