This week we address the following observation from a reader:
People for the most part have NO idea how to correctly use me and I. Don’t recall if you instructed on this issue in the past but, if so, people are not getting it. Me, I get it.
Me, myself, and I
Hmm, this is one of those grammar rules that should be easy, but isn’t. Indeed, the Scribe has misused these first-person singular pronouns once or twice too, so a refresher on the use of personal pronouns could help us all.
As you know, a pronoun is a word that takes the place of one or more common or proper nouns. The first-person singular pronoun—“me,” “myself,” and “I”—and the first-person plural pronoun—“we” and “us”—is used to refer to the person speaking or writing, e.g.,
Darth Vader: There is no escape. Don’t make me destroy you. Luke, you do not yet realize your importance. You’ve only begun to discover your power. Join me and I will complete your training. With our combined strength we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy.
Luke Skywalker: I’ll never join you!
Darth Vader: If you only knew the power of the Dark Side. Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.
Luke Skywalker: He told me enough! He told me you killed him!
Darth Vader: No … I am your father!
Alice: Please, please! H-How can I find her?
Cheshire Cat: Well, some go this way, and some go that way. But as for me, myself, personally, I prefer the short-cut.
According to traditional grammar rules, use the first-person singular pronoun “I” when the word is used as a subject, that is, when the sentence is about you or you are taking action (“I am your father.”). Use the first-person singular pronoun “me” when the word is used as an object, such as when someone else will perform the action to, or for, you, or require you to perform an action (“Don’t make me destroy you.”). The first-person singular pronoun “myself” is actually a reflexive pronoun—and is always the object of a sentence, never the subject (“I’m going to treat myself to a Star Wars movie marathon.”).
If you can remember that the word “I” is always a subject, and that “me” and “myself” are always objects, then it is easier to discern when to use which pronoun. For example, consider the sentence “Kaleen and I took the Mustang to the beach.” “Kaleen and I” are the subject—so use “I” not “me.” Now consider this sentence, “He told Kaleen and me to take the Mustang to the beach.” In that sentence, “Kaleen and me” is an object, so use “me” not “I.”
If the subject versus object distinction is confusing, another handy test for discerning whether to use “me” or “I” is to eliminate the other part of the noun phrase and see how it sounds with each pronoun, e.g.,
She told Evie and (I or me?) to file a motion.
- She told I to file a motion? [Wrong.]
- She told me to file a motion? [Correct.]
Therefore, she told Evie and me to file a motion.
If Evie and (I or me?) file a motion, we’ll win.
- If me file a motion? [Wrong.]
- If I file a motion? [Correct.]
Therefore, if Evie and I file a motion, we’ll win.
As you can see, once you take out the noun phrase, the correct choice usually becomes obvious.
That is all for now …