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a little tutorial that Lazeez thought is too short for the resources section

Peter_H

I wrote this, because I constantly see how some of the best writers (and their editors)(i.m.o.) on the site get this wrong.
And it makes me cringe every time I see it. So here's the thing I wrote, copied from when

Lazeez replied to my submission:
> Here's my short piece about me vs. I
>
> Header: "Frank and me" vs. "Jan and I"
>
> It is used wrongly way too often. And the solution is
> so very easy.
>
> All you have to do is leave out the other person, and
> see if the sentence still makes sense!
>
> Frank and I went to the cinema.
> (Frank and) I went to the cinema.
>
> Joan invited (Frank and) me to the cinema.
> versus
> Joan invited (Frank and) I to the cinema.
> See,
> "Joan invited I to the movies" -- that makes no sense.
> Nor does "() me went to the park to watch a game".
> So it's easy to see which one's right when you apply
> this simple test.
>
> Just leave the other person out of the sentence, in
> your mind, and see if it still sounds right.
>
> You should use 'I' when 'I' is the actor, the subject
> of the sentence.
> You should use 'me' when 'I' am the object to whom
> something is being done.
>
> That's all folks. Please, fellow editors, think about
> this before you let it slip through .... ;-)

It's a good short tutorial, but I don't think a single issue
warrants its own entry in the guides and resources.

You should post this on the site's forum in the editor or
authors' hang out section.

***
so here it is, posted to the author's hangout :-)

-Peter

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Peter_H

He was taller than I.
He was taller than me.

It's "I". "I" follows "than." Think of it as:
He was taller than I was.

Of course that means "He was taller than she" is correct, but when I write that in a story I always right it as "He was taller than her." I purposely do it wrong because "she" doesn't sound right.

robberhands

@Switch Blayde

I purposely do it wrong because "she" doesn't sound right.

Really? To me it sounds perfectly fine, but that's probably because Englisch isn't my native language. Weird, when you think about it.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

I always write it as "He was taller than her." I purposely do it wrong because "she" doesn't sound right.

Even CMOS agrees with you on that one. It's 5.43 states:

Strictly speaking, a pronoun serving as the complement of a be-verb or other linking verb should be in the nominative case [It was she who asked for a meeting]. In formal writing, some fastidious readers will consider the objective case to be incorrect in every instance. But in many sentences, the nominative pronoun sounds pedantic or eccentric to the modern ear [Was that he on the phone?]

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Michael Loucks

John McWhorter addressed this in one of his Lexicon Valley linguistics podcasts: Billy and Me Went to the Store. Deal With It.

You may not agree with him, but he always has some interesting insights into language and grammar. I highly recommend him.

If you are easily offended by those who believe dictionaries and grammars are descriptive rather than prescriptive, you might want to take your blood pressure medication or simply go to your fainting couch before listening. :-)

Replies:   Zom  Ross at Play
Zom
Updated:

@Michael Loucks

Billy and Me Went to the Store.


But those of us who are unconstrained by independence always follow the Queen's English, and she invariably commences with "My husband and I …", so it sounds VERY correct to us.

Replies:   awnlee jawking  graybyrd
awnlee jawking

@Zom

I read an article a couple of months ago on this subject; I can't remember whether it was by the Guardian or Oxford Dictionaries. The author pointed out why several of the 'rules' quoted by ardent grammarians are actually wrong. IIRC the author's conclusion was in favour of 'Billy and I went to the store', although 'Me and Billy went to the store' was also acceptable.

AJ

Ross at Play

@Michael Loucks

John McWhorter addressed this in one of his Lexicon Valley linguistics podcasts

That podcast is very interesting.
I started listening to it with a very healthy dose of skepticism, but found the case it made compelling.
Almost all native speakers acquire a vast number of grammatical rules and idiomatic usages at an early age, without ever being told, and then get them unerringly correct without needing to think about them. There is no logical basis for many of these rules: they just are. The 'natural order' of adjectives is an example of a complicated set of rules native speakers somehow manage to learn and get right instinctively, despite the complete lack of any rationale for why one order sounds "right" and all other orders sound "wrong".
So why is it that so many native speakers so often get it "wrong" for this seemingly simple and logical rule: use this set of pronouns (I, you, he, she, we, they) for the subjects of verbs, and this set of pronouns (me, you, him, her, us, them) for the objects of verbs?
The undeniable, but disturbing, conclusion is that the actual "rule" cannot that simple!
I'm not aware of anyone who's managed to define the actual rule satisfactorily, i.e. one that lists the set of circumstances when 'me' is valid as the subject of a verb. It may not even be impossible to figure that out now - after such a long period of people being told they should follow a rule that is wrong, it's used so often it now sounds okay. This rule has taken on a life of its own, although it may be as invalid as previous beliefs about not splitting infinites and not ending sentences with a preposition.
So what should we do as authors of fiction? I would suggest:
- In all cases where one pronoun sounds wrong, we should use the one which sounds right - without even considering whether it is the subject or object of its verb.
- In cases where both pronouns sound okay, we should decide based on whether it is the subject or object of its verb, on the grounds that is what what many readers believe should be done.

StarFleet Carl

@awnlee jawking

favour of 'Billy and I went to the store', although 'Me and Billy went to the store' was also acceptable.


The question is, are you writing for a technical document, or are you writing conversation? And if the latter, where are you putting the educational and/or age level of the speaker that you are transcribing?

'Me and Billy went to the store' sounds like either a child, a redneck (although that would probably transcribe as 'We'uns done went to the Piggly Wiggly'), or just plain casual conversation.

'Billy and I went to the store' is a more formal way of talking. But again, which is appropriate for the character that you as the author are describing?

Ross at Play

@StarFleet Carl

'Billy and I went to the store' is a more formal way of talking. But again, which is appropriate for the character that you as the author are describing?

I think you're raising a different issue. Dialogue should always be true to the character, no matter how uneducated their speech may be.
What we've been discussing here would only apply to narrative, when most authors are trying to be grammatically correct, or at least not so incorrect readers will think they've made a mistake.
I would still not write 'Billy and me went to the store' in narrative, but I would no longer be so adamant that doing so is flat-out-wrong!
There are definitely occasions when I would use 'me' as the subject of a verb.
Consider the question, 'Who did that?' I think either 'Me' or 'I did' are acceptable answers to that, but 'I' and 'Me did' sound obviously wrong. That example alone is enough to convince me the distinction for personal pronouns cannot be as simple as whether or not they are the subject or object of a verb.

Replies:   Zom  Crumbly Writer
awnlee jawking

@StarFleet Carl

The question is, are you writing for a technical document, or are you writing conversation? And if the latter, where are you putting the educational and/or age level of the speaker that you are transcribing?


I think the author's view was that 'Me and Billy' is now in common usage and it's better than 'I and Billy'.

I can't remember whether he specified a level of formality for the context. I personally would baulk at writing 'Me and Billy' in a formal document, but then I were brung up proper, like ;)

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@robberhands

To me it sounds perfectly fine, but that's probably because Englisch isn't my native language.


That must be why. I had the situation in my first novel. One Beta reader told me "than her" needed to be "than she." She is from Pakistan so English isn't her first language.

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

But in many sentences, the nominative pronoun sounds pedantic or eccentric to the modern ear


That's a more elegant way of saying it. I just said it didn't sound right. LOL

Replies:   Ross at Play
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

where one pronoun sounds wrong, we should use the one which sounds right


Not a pronoun, but what if it "sounds" right to say: "She laid down on the bed"?

At one time that sounded right to my ear. Now that I understand lay vs lie, it doesn't.

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

I just said it didn't sound right.

My point was you know something very strange is happening when CMOS - a bunch of complete Grammar Nazis about everything else - recommend anything they deem not "strictly speaking" correct.
I think using 'her' in the example you quoted does not just sound right. I think it is right. And it is the rule most are convinced exists that is inadequately defined. If the rule was as simple as most believe then native speakers would consistently get it right without even thinking about it!

Zom

@Ross at Play

'Who did that?' I think either 'Me' or 'I did' are acceptable answers

'Me' can't be 'right' there, except that it is in dialogue and some folk say it. The test I usually use is, what is (e.g.) 'me' shortening? 'Me did it'? 'Me was the one'? Perhaps 'Pick me'? I think not ...

Replies:   Ross at Play
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

'Me and Billy went to the store' was also acceptable.

I'm sorry, but "Me went to store" doesn't sound 'acceptable'!

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

- In all cases where one pronoun sounds wrong, we should use the one which sounds right - without even considering whether it is the subject or object of its verb.

Or, if you're really unsure, how someone local from the Ozarks say it. If he gets it wrong, readers will say 'Well, what does he know? He's just an ignorant cracker." In that case, you're safe whichever way you do it.

Of course, if your story takes place on Alpha Prime, you might have trouble locating someone from the Ozarks to play it off of. 'D

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Consider the question, 'Who did that?' I think either 'Me' or 'I did' are acceptable answers to that, but 'I' and 'Me did' sound obviously wrong. That example alone is enough to convince me the distinction for personal pronouns cannot be as simple as whether or not they are the subject or object of a verb.

I would always choose "I did it." "Me did it," sounds vaguely like "the person known as myself conducted an offensive act which I'd like to renounce" (i.e. it's a way of hiding behind the 3rd person just so it doesn't make you look bad). In this case, if you sound like a three-year-old, fewer people are likely to hold you personally responsible for what you did (or so they think when they try it).

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

I think the author's view was that 'Me and Billy' is now in common usage and it's better than 'I and Billy'.

While I can see "Me and Billy", I'd always use "Billy and I". "I and Billy" is simply wrong no matter how you cut it. Again, the order is paramount here.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Not a pronoun, but what if it "sounds" right to say: "She laid down on the bed"?

At one time that sounded right to my ear. Now that I understand lay vs lie, it doesn't.

Her lies upon thee bed? Or to put it in more modern terms: Trump lies wherever he lays, but you can't publish in a newspaper just where he lays his hands!

Ross at Play

@Zom

'Me' can't be 'right' there, except that it is in dialogue and some folk say it. The test I usually use is, what is (e.g.) 'me' shortening? 'Me did it'? 'Me was the one'? Perhaps 'Pick me'? I think not ...

So what would you choose for a one-word answer, 'I' or 'Me'?
To me, 'I' on its own, with an implied verb, sounds unnatural. However, it is 'me' that sounds unnatural once the verb is stated?!
I've never seen anything that explains this apparent anomaly, thus my conclusion that something must be missing from the "rule" as most people understand it to be.

Replies:   madnige  Zom
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

I would always choose "I did it." "Me did it," sounds (awful).

I agree that once you choose to use the verb 'did', then 'Me' definitely sounds wrong.
But what if you answer with just one word? Now, IMO, it is 'I' that sounds wrong, and 'Me' sounds natural.
How can you explain that, other than concluding what everybody thinks is the "rule" is inadequate?

Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

How can you explain that, other than concluding what everybody thinks is the "rule" is inadequate?


Or not so much that it's inadequate, but it isn't the real rule at all.

madnige

@Ross at Play

So what would you choose for a one-word answer, 'I' or 'Me'?


Moi

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

But what if you answer with just one word? Now, IMO, it is 'I' that sounds wrong, and 'Me' sounds natural.
How can you explain that, other than concluding what everybody thinks is the "rule" is inadequate?

I suspect this dates back to the only ones who answer a question with a one word sentences (other than "yes" or "no") are very small children, who are more likely to say "me".

Again, I can't imagine answering an accusation with either "me" or "I". After all, both acceptance and accusations don't mean much if you don't acknowledge what you were accused of. "Nuh-uh!"

Replies:   Ross at Play
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


I would always choose "I did it." "Me did it,"


Is the answer "it was me" or "it was I"?

From Grammar Girl:

The traditional grammar rule states when a pronoun follows a linking verb, such as "is," the pronoun should be in the subject case. It's also called the "nominative." That means it is correct to say, "It is I,"


So the one-word answer, I guess, should be "I." But I'd never write that.

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

I can't imagine answering an accusation with either "me" or "I".

I'm trying to discuss a point of grammar here: that there's an apparent anomaly between when someone gives a one-word or longer answer to a simple question.
What if the question was, 'Who wants this?' What would be your one-word answer to that, 'I' or 'Me'?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

"That was the most stupid thing to do. Who did it?"

"I."

"Oh, so you agree with me."

Thinking his answer was "aye."

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

Is the answer "it was me"

Yes.
I think the answer is definitely, 'It was me', despite the fact that 'me' is being equated to the subject of that sentence, so it should, technically, be in the subjective case too.
I'd already recognised that was the reason for the apparent anomaly. The one-word answer, 'me', is not a contraction of 'Me did it', but of 'It was me'.
I just continued my exchange with CW because he irritated me, shutting down the exchange by pedantically picking apart the example I chose to demonstrate a point of grammar with an objection it wasn't bloody realistic!

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
richardshagrin

@Switch Blayde

"She laid down on the bed"

Maybe the down was feathers, like in a down pillow, then laying them down was better than lying them down.

When I lie in bed I tell untruths (two plus two equals three).

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

So the one-word answer, I guess, should be "I." But I'd never write that.

That's my ... nominative, default position. 'D

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

What if the question was, 'Who wants this?' What would be your one-word answer to that, 'I' or 'Me'?

"I do! I do!"

If you get in trouble/get confused using one-word sentences, the solution seems to be ... write complete sentences.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

If you get in trouble/get confused using one-word sentences, the solution seems to be ... write complete sentences.


Why? :)

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I just continued my exchange with CW because he irritated me, shutting down the exchange by pedantically picking apart the example I chose to demonstrate a point of grammar with an objection it wasn't bloody realistic!

I wasn't trying to shut down the conversation, just observing that I wouldn't and don't use the expression "It is me." For me, that just sounds completely wrong. My point was that not everyone uses the expression.

It's fine if you've decided it's allowable because that's how many people speak, but I still maintain it's an irregular usage. Otherwise, I agree with you I/me usage rules.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

When I lie in bed I tell untruths (two plus two equals three).

You must be a blast in the sack! 'D

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

You must be a blast in the sack! 'D


He's a firecracker in paper bag?

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

"I do! I do!"

I give up. There's no point in me attempting to have a serious discussion with you about this when you're determined to continue making flippant responses.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

I wasn't trying to shut down the conversation, just observing that I wouldn't and don't use the expression "It is me." For me, that just sounds completely wrong.

This answer was not flippant.
So which would you prefer, 'It is I' or 'It is me'?

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

So which would you prefer, 'It is I' or 'It is me'?


Grammar Girl says "It is I" is grammatically correct. However, to my ear, that sounds very formal.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Ross at Play

I give up. There's no point in me attempting to have a serious discussion with you about this when you're determined to continue making flippant responses.

The flippant responses (which I've always included) are intended to keep the topic from becoming overly serious (reminding us all that we're discussion opinions, which vary over time and aren't set in stone. Just because I don't agree with you doesn't mean that I'm being argumentative, it just that you model of the universe doesn't include people like me (meaning it's limited, to one degree or another).

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

This answer was not flippant.
So which would you prefer, 'It is I' or 'It is me'?

I've already stated repeatedly, I almost never say "it is me". I prefer the 'standard model' of nominative clauses.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Grammar Girl says "It is I" is grammatically correct. However, to my ear, that sounds very formal.

Likely a regional (or more likely an educational) variant.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

Why? :)


Nah! :)

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde
Grammar Girl says "It is I" is grammatically correct. However, to my ear, that sounds very formal.
@Crumbly Writer
Likely a regional (or more likely an educational) variant.

That's why I was asking the question.
This may be an Australian thing, with our loathing of any hint of pretentiousness, but I would probably always use the objective case for anything of the form, It be-verb pronoun.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

Grammar Girl says "It is I" is grammatically correct. However, to my ear, that sounds very formal.


It's extremely formal and I've never heard anyone say it in real life. The most common answers are something semi-abusive like "It's the bloody tooth fairy. Who the hell are you expecting?" or it's answered with the person's name and why they're there, thus Fred would say, "It's Fred, come to fix the heater for you."

Replies:   Zom  Crumbly Writer
Zom

@Ross at Play

So what would you choose for a one-word answer

I wouldn't. For me, the appropriate minimum answer is 'I did'. I don't think I would ever answer with 'me', because it's a kid's answer.

Zom

@Switch Blayde

"It is I"

… baby puppy :-)

Zom

@Ernest Bywater

I've never heard anyone say it in real life.

Clearly, we have never spoken :-) I use it all the time, as do others I know.

Replies:   Ross at Play
awnlee jawking

@awnlee jawking

A public statement made by the owner of Huddersfield Town Football Club about the tenure of manager Dave Wagner starts: "Me and Dave have an understanding..."

AJ

Ross at Play

@Zom

@EB
I've never heard anyone say it in real life.
@Zom
Clearly, we have never spoken :-) I use it all the time, as do others I know.

That suggests some sort of regional (or educational) variations.
EB and I, both Aussies, use the objective case. You and CW use the nominative case.
It seems like this thread has resulted in 'two steps back' for my level of understanding. :-(

Replies:   Zom  Crumbly Writer
Zom

@Ross at Play

resulted in 'two steps back' for my level of understanding

I don't think it is regional in this part of the world. It could well be environmental.

I have learned that when I think I fully understand something, I invariably don't :-)

Zom

Question: "Who gives this woman ...?"
Answer: "Me!"

That's something I have never heard.

Dominions Son

@Zom

Question: "Who gives this woman ...?"
Answer: "Me!"

That's something I have never heard.


Wouldn't it be odd for the father of the bride to be saying "I do" at a wedding?

Switch Blayde

@Zom

Question: "Who gives this woman ...?"
Answer: "Me!"

That's something I have never heard.


I don't think he would say, "It is I."

Ernest Bywater

@Zom

Question: "Who gives this woman ...?"
Answer: "Me!"

That's something I have never heard.


Neither have I. Every time I've heard an answer to that question it's been a short phrase along the lines of "I'm glad to unload her."

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
richardshagrin

The father of the bride usually says something like "Her mother and I do."

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

It's extremely formal and I've never heard anyone say it in real life. The most common answers are something semi-abusive like "It's the bloody tooth fairy. Who the hell are you expecting?"

Alas, I spent a lot of time in Manhattan among many well-educated professionals of all stripes, so they weren't afraid to use proper English, where those in smaller communities may not wish to appear any better off than their contemporaries (often hiding their university training by changing their speech patterns).

If it fits your story, use whichever fits, but don't have an intellectual say "It be me!", nor a farmer state "It is I".

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

EB and I, both Aussies, use the objective case. You and CW use the nominative case.
It seems like this thread has resulted in 'two steps back' for my level of understanding.

And that's perfectly fine. You need to consider where your stories are located: Australia, England, American farmland or eastern (U.S.) college town, and adjust your usage beyond your own usages. However, it sometimes gets difficult to separate your personal usages from the predominant usage for most characters in a story.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Neither have I. Every time I've heard an answer to that question it's been a short phrase along the lines of "I'm glad to unload her."

"I'm still waiting for my damn goats!" 'D

Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

The father of the bride usually says something like "Her mother and I do."

"My harem of polygamous wives and I do. Be fruitful and multiply like rabid bunnies." ;-)

Replies:   Ross at Play  Zom
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

multiply like rabid bunnies

LOL.

Zom
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

multiply like rabid bunnies


Um - wouldn't rabid bunnies be dead before they gave birth? Copulate like rabid bunnies maybe, but not multiply. Quite the reverse :-) Always assuming wabies kills wabbits.

ETA. Wabies does kill wabbits :-(

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Zom

But the rabies multiplies as the wabbits bite each other ;)

AJ

graybyrd

@Zom

she invariably commences with "My husband and I …", so it sounds VERY correct to us.


That is correct only if spoken in a high, raspy contralto with a pinky-erect hand gesture.

Replies:   Zom
Zom

@graybyrd

That is correct only if spoken in a high, raspy contralto with a pinky-erect hand gesture.

You didn't mention the tea sipping, which has also been attendant for more than 65 years. Head of many things, including the language.

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