Grammar Lesson 1: What’s the deal with you and I?
This is a common one. Should you use ‘and me’ or ‘and I’ in a sentence that includes another person? Fortunately, there’s a pretty simple rule for getting it right, which I will show you. And then I’ll explain why you can go ahead and forget that rule.
So what’s the rule?
If you’re interested in the specific grammar explanation, see the section below. For those who just want the hard and fast rule, read on.
The trick to understanding whether you should use ‘I’ or ‘me’ is to see whether you can take the other person out of the sentence and still have it make sense. Let’s look at some examples:
‘Tony and I went to the market.’
If we take Tony out of the equation the sentence would read:
‘I went to the market.’
Grammatically, that sentence makes sense. Now, let’s say that we’d written it this way instead:
‘Me and Tony went to the market.’
Sounds fine, until you take Tony out:
‘Me went to the market.’
Taking another example, we can use the same trick to give us the opposite (but still correct) result:
‘Sarah came to the market with me and Tony.’
Again, let’s ditch Tony and we get this:
‘Sarah came to the market with me.’
We’re happy with how that sounds. But, if we write this:
‘Sarah came to the market with Tony and I.’
And then we remove Tony, we have this:
‘Sarah came to the market with I.’
It doesn’t sound nice at all. So, in this instance, we’d use ‘and me’. Once you’ve used this trick a couple of times, it’ll become much easier to pick the grammatically correct option first time around.
The ‘grammar’ facts
There is a fundamental difference between the two options and deciding which one to use is dependent on the subject of the sentence. Let’s take our two examples:
‘Tony and I/me went to the market.’
‘Sarah came to the market with I/me and Tony.’
In the first example, the subject of the sentence is ‘Tony and I/me’ because we are the ones taking the action, so using ‘and I’ would be correct.
In the second example, Sarah is the subject of the sentence as she is the one taking the action. In this example, Tony and I/me are just additions the sentence (known as modifiers). In this case, it would be correct to use ‘and me’.
Now you know the rule, let’s flout it
Well, maybe not entirely; it’s still worth knowing, but it really isn’t all that important in fiction. There might well be fifty editors who will line up at my door to chastise me for saying that but it’s my view.
Why is it not important in fiction? Because we just don’t talk that ‘proper’ when we’re in informal conversation. If you look back at the examples, in the ones we deemed wrong when you take Tony away, they still made sense when you kept him in. That’s because they represent how we speak naturally.
So unless you’re writing a very formal document or piece of non-fiction, whether you use ‘and me’ or ‘and I’ will not matter too much.
But at least you know the rule, right? Now that puts you and I in the same club.