What’s the difference between “I” and “me”?
Maybe some obnoxious person has corrected your pronouns in the past. “It’s ‘Andrew and I’, not ‘Me and Andrew!” they’d exclaim.
And I’m sure that gives us pause to stop and think, is that right? And what’s the difference anyway.
Apart from that, who cares, right?
Well, there is a technically ‘right’ answer to this question, which is quite important to get right if you’re writing to an audience who cares. It can take the gloss off your amazing piece of writing if you make this kind of mistake.
In other words, if you’re trying to write to an audience who is aware of these kinds of grammatical errors, it undermines your ideas. Just take a look at social media posts. When an argument inevitably occurs online, one way of dismissing someone’s opinion or deflecting an argument is to pick on someone’s incorrect grammar.
Samantha: Harry Potter is clearly in love with Hermione. He and her are just made for each other.
Jane: What is “He and her”?! Where did you go to school? You can’t even write a sentence properly. lol
What is “He and her”?! Where did you go to school? You can’t even write a sentence properly. lol”
You notice with the interaction above the Jane made no attempt to discuss Harry Potter or Hermione? Instead, Jane simply makes fun of Samantha’s incorrect use of “Him and her”. It’s not a very nice way of having a discussion, but we’ve seen it happen plenty of times, especially on social media.
Can you imagine going for a promotion at work, or even a job interview, and something as petty as grammar losing you a great opportunity?
Sadly, our world is full of people who judge others based on small things like this. Speaking and writing correctly is still regarded as a sign of good education. And if you can’t speak or write “correctly”, then you’ve just shown a lack of education.
In the written word, it can often show a lack of care. If someone hasn’t taken the time to write using standard English, then they either don’t know better or they don’t care. In either case, it’s not good if you’re trying to show off how competent you are.
So what is the difference?
Basically, the “I” sits at the beginning of a sentence or clause as the “subject”. This means that “I” is the one doing the verb.
Jenny and I went to the movies.
“Jenny and I” is the subject of the sentence or clause. They are the ones doing the verb.
Here, “I” is used as the subject of the sentence. In most sentences, the subject is BEFORE the verb in a sentence.
The pronoun “me”, however, works in a very different way. “Me” is the object in a sentence or clause. The object comes AFTER the verb.
Jenny went to the movies with me.
Notice how the “me” appears after the verb “went”?
It would also work in a list like this:
Jenny went to the movies with Amanda, Jane and me.
Jimmy hit golf balls at Andrew and me.
How do you tell which one to use?
Well, you need to know where your verb is in the sentence.
“I” will always be the subject in the sentence or clause, sitting before the verb. “Me” will always be the object in a sentence, sitting somewhere after the verb.
This does require knowledge of the different word classes: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc…
Now you try:
Can you identify the mistakes in the following extract? Make a mental note of how to fix them.
I woke up and yawned quietly, trying not to disturb Jamie and Anthony’s sleep. I smelt the remains of an all-night movie marathon, popcorn, soda and left over pizza. Me tried to open an eye-lid but it was stuck fast, the other one opened just a crack.
I squirmed inside my sleeping bag. My stomach now telling me to find breakfast. An angry growl erupted from my stomach. I needed to get up and satisfy my hunger. Last night’s meal had not done its job on me.
Walking on the cold tiles, me crept closer to the pantry. My stomach growled again. I opened the pantry door with care, but a creak rang out. I worried that I might wake the others.
I looked, top shelf, and there it was. A tall, thin box, filled with sugary flakes looked down at me. It is a diabetics worst nightmare, but I love it.
Now, see if you can find “I” and “me” in this passage. Do they sit before or after a verb?
If it sits before a verb, it should be “I”. If it sits after a verb, it should be a “me”. The verbs are: woke, smelt, tried, squirmed, telling, needed, had not done, crept, opened, worried, might wake, looked, looked, love.
Here are some more examples to illustrate the point:
“I” as subject
I want to go to school today.
After dinner, I want to show you how to knit.
All day, I have been waiting to eat that cake.
Josephine, Daphne and I are not going to work well together.
Can I have a large cup of coffee with no sugar?
“Me” as object
The dog licked me.
She hates me.
Those crayons are bad for me to eat.
Please don’t let me down.
Alfred takes really good care of me.
For Christmas, Daniel is going to give me a large gift of roses.
Can you come with me?
So, know you’ll know when to use “I” and when to use “me”.