Thursday, April 8, 2010

English Teacher

I am enjoying putting on my English teacher hat once a week and writing about points of grammar. My favorite part is getting questions and comments from you about what's confusing to you.



For the record, I don't wear my "English teacher hat" except at special times. Please don't feel that you need to check your grammar when you leave me a comment. I've done professional editing and proofreading quite a bit, but I promise that I don't read your writing with a critical eye!

Now on to today's lesson. Several readers have asked me to address the question of when to use "I" and when to use "me." That's a good question, so here we go!

We'd have a difficult time using our language if it weren't for personal pronouns. Think about it: how many times a day do you use the words I, me, we, us, you, he, him, she, her, they, and them? Now imagine trying to have a conversation without using those. Yikes!

For the most part, the use of pronouns comes very naturally to us. The one troublesome point is knowing when to use subjective pronouns and when to use objective pronouns. Here's the run-down on that point:

Use a subjective pronoun (I, you, he, she, they) as the subject of a sentence or phrase or following a linking verb (is, am, are, was, were, be).

Examples:

  • I love chocolate.
  • They left town this morning.
  • This is she. (Think about how you learned to answer the phone!)
Use an objective pronoun (me, you, him, her, them) as a direct or indirect object of a sentence or the object of a preposition. Prepositions are the connecting words used to build phrases that usually describe relationship of some kind. Some common prepositions are about, at, before, between, by, for, from, of, on, to, and with. The word or words following a preposition are the objects of the preposition. When you use a pronoun as the object of a preposition, you need an objective pronoun.

Examples:

  • Charlie bit me! ("Me" is the direct object of bit.)
  • Pam made me a pillow. ("Me" is the indirect object of made.)
  • This book is all about her. ("Her" is the object of the preposition about.)

Now, here's where it gets tricky. When you were very small, you probably said to your mom something like, "Me and Sally are going to ride our bikes." And your mom probably said, "Don't say 'me and Sally'; say 'Sally and I.'" She was trying to teach you that it's polite to say the other person's name first, then say your own name. She was right about that. And she probably had to tell you this rule of courtesy a number of times before you got it. The important part of that lesson was being polite, not using good grammar. But you need to know that you should say "Sally and I" ONLY when you need the subject of a sentence or phrase. If "Sally and I" are serving as the object of a phrase, then you need to switch to "Sally and me."

Examples:

  • Mom baked cookies for Sally and me.
  • Please take a picture of Sally and me.
  • If you have any questions, just ask Sally or me.

There's an easy way to know whether to use "Sally and I" or "Sally and me." Just take "Sally" out of the sentence for a second. Would you say, "Mom baked cookies for I"? "Please take a picture of I"? Or "Just ask I"? No, of course you wouldn't; you would naturally say "me" instead of "I." So if you would naturally say "me," then you should use "me" in conjunction with the other person's name.

Your mom was right: it IS polite to say the other person's name first. But choose to add "I" or "me" based on how you're using the words in a sentence.

Here's an example: "Let's keep this just between you and I." There's even a song with lyrics "I feel the magic between you and I." Oops! Between is a preposition, so you need an object of the preposition. The correct wording is "between you and me."

Here's a little quiz for you.

  1. My husband and _____ (I or me) invite you to have dinner with us.
  2. I love this photo of my husband and _____ (I or me) from our wedding day.

If you answered "I" for number 1 and "me" for number 2, you're right!

I hope this lesson was helpful. I'd love to know what other questions or observations you might have. In this class, you can speak right up; you don't even have to raise your hand! I love to hear from you.

**You can read all the grammar lessons I've written so far by clicking the "Grammar" link in my sidebar. I want this series to be a blessing to you. Please let me know if I can help you!**

10 comments:

Lauren said...

I always love your lessons, even though I already know the things you go over with us I still like to read them. It's always good to have a brush up of the basics! :)

Southern Lady said...

My pet peeve is when people use the words I and me incorrectly. That seems to be happening more and more lately. English teachers are falling down on the job. Thanks for the lesson. Carla

Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

This is a good one! I'm sometimes guilty of using "I" and "me" incorrectly, but I passed your quiz today after reading your post. :) Thanks!!!

Traci@ Beneath My Heart said...

Great lesson!
I scored 100% on the test. Go me! :)

Suzy said...

I'm old school with the "Sally and I" thing, it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks !

Carmen said...

I love this lesson! My pet peeve is the whole I/me issue. You know what? Grammar has always come SO easy to me. So when I got called for a job the other day and they wanted me to take a grammar test, I thought NO PROBLEM. In fact, I welcomed it. Sadly, I think I may have choked. After much scrutiny, I started second guessing my answers. :( I hope I did well enough for them to call me for an interview though.

Ginger said...

Grammarians, unite! Very good explanation of this tricky subject!

wendywander said...

Thank you for these posts! I tutored grammar for more than seven years, and having things clearly written honestly makes me feel more calm.

My pet peeve is the double preposition. I read and hear the error far too frequently, and it always makes me cringe.

HeathahLee said...

Love this post! Love this series! I'm such a nerd. :D

Shelli said...

Your grammar lessons are great! I'm in the thick of things teaching these very lessons to my kids (ages 13 and 10).

I've run across a funny predicament with answering the phone properly. My name is Shelli and when telemarketers call asking for me, I respond, "This is she." Soon I began getting junk mail addressed to "She B______"! I think somewhere along the line a telemarketer thought it best to "correct" my name to "She". Ugh!

Here's a grammar question for you: when a sentence ends with a quotation mark (as do several of my sentences above), does the period go inside or outside? I think I know most of the time, but I keep seeing all manner of improper usage and could use a refresher. Thanks!

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