When to use I and when to use me…

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Personal pronouns can be tricky. Here’s a primer on when to use I and when to use me.

As I write this post I am eagerly anticipating National Grammar Day, March 4, 2014.  Yes, I realize this is a US holiday, but there’s no good reason why Canadians shouldn’t mark the day as well. My contribution to festivities? A column on whether you should use “I” or “me.”

The personal pronouns I and me are often used incorrectly, frequently by senior executives. (Well, frequently by just about everyone, but  it stands out more with senior executives because we all expect them to be smarter.)

Here are some tips to help save you from embarrassing yourself:

  • Use  when it is the subject of a verb. (A subject is the person who or thing that performs the verb.)
I went for a walk.
want a bonus payment.
James and I are going for a walk.
In the last example, the words James and I, form the subject of the sentence, so you need to use I rather than me.
  • Use me when it is the object of a verb or preposition. (An object is a person or thing affected by the verb.)
Madison helped me finish the report.
The IT department helped me close the sale.
The CEO toured the plant with the VPs and me.
The words the VPs and me form the object of the last sentence, so you need to use me rather than I.
Most people don’t make mistakes with the simpler constructions but they get into difficulty when more than one person is involved in either the subject or object. Here is a quick and dirty fix that will help you. Simply remove the other person and then try both I and me to see which is correct:
WRONG: Me is going for a walk.
RIGHT: I am going for a walk.
Thus, you should say: James and I are going for a walk.

Here’s another example:

WRONG: The CEO toured the plant with I.
RIGHT: The CEO toured the plant with me.
Thus, you should say: The CEO toured the plant with the VPs and me.
I know this sort of double-checking sounds like a nuisance but it takes only a few seconds. And you can forever save yourself from a bad impression you might otherwise create.
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