Pedantics #3

I feel it’s time for a little pedantry. There’s a common error that’s been getting on my nerves for the best part of the last two decades. It rarely gets addressed. It’s something we’ve all fallen prey to, but it’s one of those things that most people don’t notice. In fact, they often make the mistake deliberately, believing it’s correct grammar.

How many times did we hear it as kids? “It’s not ‘Me and Joe are going out to play’, it’s ‘Joe and I‘.” My dad and I. Melissa and I. Mrs Graham’s science class and I. ‘These new shoes and I are not getting along.’ Etc…

And most often the adults correcting us would be right. But sometimes they weren’t. “Can Melissa come out to play with Joe and me?” Adult: “You mean Joe and I.”

NO! She means exactly what she said! It is not always grammatically correct to say ‘so-and-so and I‘. There are places in a sentence where it is emphatically wrong to do so. “Can Melissa come out to play with Joe and me?” is one such example.

‘I’ is a first person subject pronoun. That means it’s used when it’s the subject of a sentence, such as ‘I love my dog.’ The verb is ‘love’, the subject is ‘I’, the object is ‘dog’.

‘Me’ is a first person object pronoun, meaning it’s used as the object of a sentence, such as ‘My dog loves me.’ The verb is still ‘love’, but now the subject is ‘dog’ and the object is ‘me’.

This is true regardless of how many subjects or objects are involved. ‘My cat and I love my dog’ has two subjects: ‘cat’ and ‘I’. Placing ‘I’ after cat is as much for reasons of etiquette as grammar – it’s not polite to mention ourselves first. But when we make ‘dog’ the subject of this sentence, we have to use the first person object pronoun instead of the subject version.

‘My dog loves my cat and me.’

I know people who cringe when they hear this completely correct pronoun use. They’ve been conditioned into thinking ‘so-and-so and me’ is always wrong. Personally, I cringe when I hear ‘My dog loves my cat and I.’ (Argh.) The simplest way to tell whether to use ‘I’ or ‘me’ is simply to remove the other subject/s or object/s of the sentence. If you take ‘my cat’ out of that sentence, it makes no sense.

‘My dog loves I’?

Ha. No. I don’t know about yours, but my dog loves me.

It works the other way too. Take the subject ‘cat’ out of the first example and you end up with the clearly correct ‘I love my dog’. If it had been wrong (‘My cat and me love my dog’), you’d get: ‘Me love my dog.’

Me Tarzan. You Jane.

So let it be known: It is not always ‘Joe and I’. Sometimes it’s ‘Joe and me’. It all depends on the verb and whether the first person pronoun is carrying out that verb or being affected by it.

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