Don’t Be Afraid of “Me”

I’m referring to the pronoun me in that headline, not the person. Really, I’m not a member of the grammar police. I’m just offering a little tip to help you master the use of pronouns as objects.

You’re bound to hear at least one case of grammatical overcompensation each day. Sure enough, an especially common one popped up on a recent rerun of a primetime network TV show. One character said this to another: “It wasn’t over between Will and I.”

Now, this is one of my favorite shows, and the character who said it was supposed to be a journalist. I’m doubly sad. Here’s another faux pas from the same show: “Do they know about you and I?”

For some reason, many people are afraid to use (or misuse) the pronoun me and generally opt for I instead, believing it somehow sounds better or smarter. It doesn’t.

Let’s take that last question apart and put a new spin on it. This same character never would have said, “Do they know about we?” or “Do they know about I?” Why? Because we and I are subjects, not objects. She would have said, “Do they know about us?” or “Do they know about me?” (Am I right? Please nod if you agree. Okay.) Adding the word you into the mix doesn’t have to complicate anything.

The next time you’re writing a sentence that refers to you and another person, and that reference appears after a preposition, simplify the sentence by getting rid of the other person’s name and the and that’s connected to it. So, is it, “Joe was standing behind Mike and I?” Or “Joe was standing behind Mike and me?” If you chose the latter, you are correct. (Wild applause here.) The word me is indeed the correct form of the first-person singular pronoun to use after a preposition like behind or between or about.

But wait, you say. (This is where I ask the reader to play along.) Jim Morrison promised generations of fans that his love would last “’til the stars fall from the sky for you and I.” My response? Well, he’s Jim Morrison; in his case, as part of a legendary rock group, poetic license trumps good grammar. For the rest of us, though, it’s “you and me.”