The uses of I instead of me, me instead of I, and myself instead of me are a few of the most common mistakes made in both written and spoken English. I have written about this issue before. However, I don’t like to look at my previous blog posts when I write new ones, so I can present a current and fresh perspective of the issues. So, once again let’s talk about I, me, and myself and straighten it out.
Here are some sentences in which I, me, and myself are used correctly:
- My friend and I are going out to lunch.
- Would you like to come with him and me?
- Between you and me, I think she cheated on the test.
- Please give the report to Hank and me.
- I myself made these delicious brownies!
- I fixed the gate myself because no one was here to help me.
Here are some sentences in which I, me, and myself are used incorrectly:
- Me and my friend are going out to lunch.
- Would you like to come with him and I?
- Between you and I, I don’t think I can keep this secret.
- Please give those cookies to my friend and I.
- Give the report to both the director and myself.
- He and myself are representing the company at the conference.
Let’s start at the beginning. The words I, me, and myself are all pronouns, words that take the place of nouns. And they are very convenient: Masie brought her guitar with her instead of Masie brought Masie’s guitar with Masie.
- I, me, and myself are called “first-person pronouns.” (also my and mine)
- We, us, our, ours, and ourselves are the plural first-person pronouns.
- You and yourself are called “second-person pronouns.” (also your and yours)
- He, him, himself, she, her, herself, it, and itself are called “third-person pronouns.” (also hers, his, and its)
- They, them, themselves, their, and theirs are the plural third-person pronouns.
Okay. that is all well and good. But how do you know whether to use I or me or myself?
If you don’t want to think about grammar, there are a couple of guidelines you can use:
- I is generally used before the verb, or action word. Me generally comes after the verb unless the verb is the “to be” verb without another verb (is, are, was, etc.): It is I (most people say it is me, but it is I is correct).
- I is generally used at the beginning of a sentence, and me would be used later in the sentence.
But these guidelines don’t work all the time, so let’s talk about the grammar.
The difference between I and me is case. Pronouns have case. There are three cases (but in other languages there are five or seven or eight cases, and nouns have cases too.) Cases are important only in pronouns in the English language. The three cases are subjective (or nominative), objective, and possessive. We are dealing only with subjective and objective today. Subjective case is used for subjects. Objective case is used for objects.
Subjects are often at the beginning of the sentence; they are the doers of the verb action.
- I went to the party.
- Joe and I went to the party.
- After the game, I am going to the movies.
If there is more than one subject, it doesn’t matter. It is still I. Therefore the following sentence is incorrect:
- Me and Joe went to the party. First of all, me should be I. Second of all, out of politeness we always put the other person first.
There are three types of objects. Two of them generally come after the verb. One type can be anywhere in the sentence.
- He kicked me. (Direct object. He kicked who?)
- He threw me the ball. (Indirect object. Ball is direct object)
- He threw the ball to me. (object of the preposition to.)
If there is more than one object, IT DOESN”T CHANGE ANYTHING! Me doesn’t suddenly change to I when another person is added:
- He kicked him and me. (not him and I)
- He threw him and me the ball. (not him and I)
- He threw the ball to him and me. (not him and I)
Myself has special uses and is not interchangeable with either I or me. Basically, the rule is that if you use myself, the subject of the sentence must be I.
- I myself made that delicious chocolate cake. (called an intensive pronoun here because it emphasizes I)
- I made that cake myself. (called a reflexive pronoun here because it bounces back to I.)
Myself could be used as an object: I lay myself down to sleep.
The rule follows in second and third person as well: Don’t use yourself unless you is the subject. Don’t use himself unless he is the subject. And so on.
What About Second and Third Person Pronouns?
No difference. For subjects, use we, he, she, they. These are all subjective case pronouns.
For objects, use us, him, her, them. These are all objective case pronouns.
There is another little confusion with I and me — in comparisons:
- She likes chocolate more than me.
Hmmm….does this mean that she likes chocolate more than I like chocolate? Or does it mean that she likes chocolate more than she likes me? We would assume she means the former. But from the way it is said, it actually means the latter! To know whether to use I or me in comparison, fill in the “missing” words. You don’t need to actually say or write them, but fill them in just in your head to know which pronoun to use:
- She likes chocolate more than (she likes) me.
- She likes chocolate more than I (do).
So the correct way to say it is probably She likes chocolate more than I.
Grammar Diva News
I was away, so my latest book is a little behind schedule. However, it should be out later this summer. I am still working on the title, although the book is nearly done. Working title right now is:
The Grammar Diva Presents – Does Your Flamingo Flamenco? The Best Little Dictionary of Confusing Words and Malapropisms
Quite a mouthful, huh?