A Word with Beth — about Me, Myself, and I (Part One)
April 20, 2014
The Owl has observed that Me, Myself, and I are often troublemakers in the grammatical world. Me and I work in tandem to cause confusion, while Myself causes quite enough problems on its own.
Today I’m going to talk about Me and I. Myself will get a post all of its own, next month. Here’s why I think we need to give a hoot about this sometimes troublesome trio.
When we’re children, learning all the DOs and DON’Ts of the English language, there are few things we’re corrected about more often than Me and I. “Me and Janie are going to…” — “No, Janie and I…” we’re quickly told.
This correction is important and necessary, but unfortunately it leads inevitably to more grammatical errors. We start to think it is wrong to use Me any time it is paired with another noun. If it is correct to say “Janie and I went to the playground,” then it must also be correct to say, “Give the ball to Janie and I.” Right? The Owl is shaking his head.
In the first example, Janie and I are the subjects of the sentence. When the personal pronoun is the subject, it is always I. The two words can be used together, as in the example, or they can be used separately and still have the sentence make sense. “Janie went to the playground” or “I went to the playground.”
In the second example, Janie and the pronoun referring to the speaker are the objects of the sentence. The word “to” is a preposition, showing the direction of the action. The action is found in the verb “give.” (As an imperative sentence, the subject “you” is unvoiced, but understood.) The personal pronoun to use when there is an action being done to that pronoun, is Me.
As I did with the first example, a quick test of whether to use I or Me is to try the sentence with just the personal pronoun (make Janie go sit on a log for a while or something). In the second example, we said “Give the ball to Janie and I.” Let’s try it without Janie. “Give the ball to I.” No wonder the Owl was shaking his head! “Give the ball to me.” That’s better!
So, even though it feels wrong, because of our indoctrination into the use of I, I, I — the correct way to say the second example is “Give the ball to Janie and me.”
Here’s a quick and easy way to remember (or to teach your kids to remember) which to use. Just remember two sentences. “I did it!” and “For me?” If the personal pronoun is doing the action, it’s “I did it.” If the personal pronoun is receiving the action, it’s “For me?”
Next month, the Owl will explain why the word Myself often gets his feathers in a grammatical twist.
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A Word With Beth is posted on the third Monday of each month.
If you have any grammar or word use questions, please send an email to mail (at) flubs2fixes (dot) com OR ask in the comments below this post — I look forward to helping you with your grammatical conundrums.