Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Episode #2: I vs. Me


In our second episode, we tackle a common grammar conundrum: When do you use I, and when do you use me?

Spoiler alert: People tend to hypercorrect by using I when they should use meTune in by CLICKING HERE to learn to rule so you'll never use the wrong pronoun again.

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Until next week, remember: Clarity never faileth!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hello, lovely grammar gurus!

    I had this post in my mind when I ran across this sentence in a book (names in the sentence have been changed--it was an excellent book with one grammatically sticky sentence):

    "Tom answered so quickly that there was no point in Rob and I even trying to answer."

    I don't think that's right. Would it be "R's and my trying to answer"? That sounds awful. Or "R and me"? You can see why the editor went with what got printed. Perhaps rewriting the sentence would have been the better part of valor...

    Anyway, your comments requested!

  3. Dear Lee Ann,

    Thanks for your excellent question!

    Your initial instinct (even if it sounded awful to your ears) would be correct without that pesky word "even." Here's why.

    The root of the clause is "there was no point." Without the word "even," "in trying" is an adjectival (modifying the subject "point") prepositional phrase with the gerund "trying" as the object. Therefore, a compound possessive modifying the gerund "trying," such as "Rob's and my," would be correct.

    HOWEVER, the adverb "even" throws a wrench into the sentence. It wants to treat the gerund "trying" as a present participle. And since the word "trying" often IS a present participle, so it's easy to see why a writer or speaker would want to modify it with an adverb.

    Those of us familiar enough with English to recognize (whether instinctively or consciously) that the preposition "in" requires an object will naturally want to throw a "me" in after it--and that would probably be better than what your writer and/or editor came up with.

    There's no possible way that the overcorrection "Rob and I" in the sentence as it stands could be justified.

    So, a long answer to say that, if Annette or I had been editing, we probably would have changed the original to: "Tom answered so quickly that there was no point in Rob's and my trying to answer." But without guns to our heads to keep it all in one sentence, we almost certainly would have changed it to: "Tom answered quickly. There was no point in Rob's and my trying to answer." It just flows better broken up like that in my opinion.

    Whew! Keep your questions coming, people!

  4. Nice to be validated on the possessive modifying the gerund.

    The part about not modifying a gerund (noun) with an adverb makes perfect sense now that you point it out, but I'd never seen it that way before (we don't say "so tulip," or "very car," after all...). Thanks!

  5. Perhaps you could add an addendum to this podcast and give the why-breakdown behind I and me when used in a comparison, such as:

    Annette and Luisa speak better than me.
    Luisa and Annette speak better than I.
    They speak better than I do.
    When you add "do," then it's clearly I. Take the do away and things can get confusing.