The age-old question: John and “I” or John and “me”?

delicate grammar points

Mondays can be a delicate time for our grey cells as they gear up for the week ahead, so here’s a little “gramm-ercise” to ease us in gently…

“John and I…” or “John and me…”? Well, it all depends on whether John and you are the subject or the object of the clause or sentence. Here are a couple of examples to help you decide next time you’re torn.

John and I are going to eat fish pie at home this evening.”

Using “I” is perfectly correct here, as John and I are the people who “are going to eat” – in other words, we are the subjects of the sentence.

It would not, however, be correct to say, “John and me are going to eat fish pie at home this evening”.

And why is that?

Simple: because “me” is the pronoun that we use when the “I” (whoever “I” may be) is not the subject of the sentence, i.e. not the person who is (in this case) going to eat the fish pie. Let’s look at an example where “me” would be correct:

“My aunt is not a kind person. She and my uncle do not like my brother and me.”

Here “me” is the right choice – not “I” – as the people doing the liking (i.e. the subjects of the sentence) are “She (aka my aunt) and my uncle”, whereas the writer’s brother and the writer are the people who are on the receiving end of the dislike (so they are the objects of the sentence).

One quick way to check whether you should use “I” or “me” in a sentence is to remove the other person from the equation. Let’s try that with the first example. If we were to tell John to leave the house and were planning to eat on our own, we’d say, “I am going to eat alone.”

If English is our mother tongue, we would somehow know instinctively not to say “Me am going to eat alone.” Of course, you could still use that version if you wished, but there’s a distinct risk you might sound like a two-year-old… You’d know it sounded better to say “I” when you are the subject of the sentence, and you are still a subject of that sentence if we add John back into the equation – hence “John and I are going to eat…”

Next, let’s try the same technique with the second example. If the writer didn’t have a brother, with the result that the aunt and uncle had only one person to dislike, it would sound rather odd for the writer to claim, “She and my uncle do not like I” – we would instinctively know to use “me”. So all we need to remember is that we still need to use “me” if our brother is also one of the objects of the sentence – hence “(they) do not like my brother and me”!

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