Friday, 2 January 2015

"I" or "me": a grammar tip

Now, I'm the first to admit that my formal knowledge of English grammar is woefully inadequate. I may have completed high school, a Bachelor degree and a Graduate Diploma, but at no stage was I ever taught more than the rudimentary rules of grammar (e.g. this is a noun, when to use "there", "their" and "they're"). When I hear people, usually those who have English as a second language, start talking about rules on past perfect and present perfect continuous my brain seems to shut down (and please don't ask me what they are, I have no idea). So when I come across a simple way of resolving some grammatical issue I treat it like gold.

One of the issues I have is when to use "I" and when to use "me". Should I say "The Queen and I" or "The Queen and me"?

Which brings me to a recent column by Jonathan Holmes. In Jonathan Holmes' grammatical hate-list Jonathan has a little rant about some of his pet hates. He opens up on "the grammatical and linguistic solecisms that drive me (irrationally, I admit) to distraction".

In the process he explains when to use "I" and when to use "me".
But supposedly literate politicians, and journalists, and the great and the good generally, seem incapable these days of understanding that if Tasha and I are the object of a verb, or in the predicate of a sentence, then we should become "Tasha and me".
And here's where he makes it simple (my emphasis):
Every one of them wrong. Just get rid of the girlfriends, wives and journalists, and it's obvious how wrong:  "The stars shine bright over I", "he invited I to watch", "two of the judges quietly told I of their displeasure", "there were guffaws among we".  Me, me, me and us are the appropriate pronouns.
That's it. When trying to figure out which of "I" or "me" to use, remove the other person from the sentence and then see if it makes sense.

So "Jonathan and I are pedants" is correct, because "I am a pedant" sounds correct, whereas "Me am a pedant" sounds wrong.

"Santa gave Jonathan and me a book on grammar" is correct, because "Santa gave me a book on grammar" sounds correct, whereas "Santa gave I a book on grammar" sounds wrong.

So there you have it, a quick rule of thumb on when to use "I" and when to use "we".

Thank you Jonathan.

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