Just between you and me

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People often say “you and I” when they really should be saying “you and me.” Here’s a quick explanation of the rule…

Grammar is seldom taught in schools these days and most of us struggle to speak correctly – just as we struggle to lose 10 pounds after Christmas.

I hear (and read) lots of bad grammar, so, let me help you prevent embarrassment when you’re speaking to others and struggling with whether to say, “you and I” or “you and me.”

My quick and dirty rule – which works most, although not all of the time – is this: Remove the other person from the sentence and then try both I and me to see which sounds better. For example would you say: “Me is going to the store”? Of course not! That sentence requires I. Similarly, you’d never say “Me will take care of it.” That’s another case where you need an I. On the other hand, you’d never say, “Give it to I” – that should clearly be a me. So a sentence like, “Give it to Mike and I and we’ll take care of it,” is wrong.

You may assume that you’ll sound more “educated” if you start throwing in I, more or less willy nilly, but, often, you’ll be wrong and you’ll end up sounding unsophisticated. Always  take the time to double-check sentences with I or me before saying/writing them.

I grew up in a household where my parents emphasized good grammar. I’ve also been an editor for 30 years and I STILL do this double-checking. (I also reflexively check its each time I write it to ensure I didn’t mean it’s, with an apostrophe. But I digress…)

If you want to understand the grammar surrounding the I/me imbroglio, here’s the explanation:

I and me are different types of pronouns. I is a subjective pronoun (a replacement noun that performs the action of the verb) and me is an objective pronoun (a replacement noun that receives the action of a verb.)

In the sentence “Prime Minister Stephen Harper made five appointments to the Senate” Stephen Harper is the subject and five appointments to the Senate is the object. If you wanted to replace the nouns with pronouns, you’d write: He appointed them.

But the difference between you and I and you and me frequently becomes more confusing. That’s because prepositions — terms such as: above, about, across, beneath and between — show the relationship between words in a sentence. (Check out a complete list of prepositions here.) And there’s a grammar rule that pronouns following prepositions ALWAYS become objective.

That’s why even though it’s normally correct to say, You and I, if you throw in a preposition like “between” — for example,  just between you and me — you have to switch to me. The preposition between is the deal-breaker. There’s no way around this rule except to memorize it.

Grammar. I know. It’s enough to make you and me roll our eyes.

Photo courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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