You may think I’m a little crazy for having an entire Grammar Corner entry on how to properly use the words “I” and “me.” After all, most of us started using these words soon after we began to speak! But here is the sad truth: People mix these words up all the time, particularly when they use “I” instead of “me.”
"I" and "me" have two different functions in a sentence, and they cannot be interchanged. Here’s the rule:
“I” can only be used as a subject, and “me” can only be used as an object.
This may sound a little intimidating, but there’s no need to worry. If you’ve been speaking English for a while, you normally won’t even need to think about subjects and objects to figure out which word to use. That’s because people most frequently mix up “I” and “me” in a very specific circumstance: when they refer to themselves in the same part of the sentence as someone else. I'm going to focus on this grammatical scenario and give you an easy trick for correctly choosing “I” or “me” every time.
Here are some examples of “I” and “me” being used correctly in the type of sentence that often causes confusion:
Manny and I studied at the library.
Janelle and I will go to the football game.
The professor gave Ellie and me great advice.
Please listen to Dad and me. We know what’s best for you.
The journalist wants to write an article about my brother and me.
This is a photo of Eric and me at the holiday party.
In the first two sentences, the speaker is part of the subject, so “I” is correct. But in the last four sentences, the speaker is part of the object, so “me” must be used.
But remember what I said earlier? You don’t even have to think about subjects and objects to get this right.
Here is the trick of all tricks to figure out whether to use “I” or “me” in this type of sentence:
Take the other person out of the sentence.
It’s really that simple. When you remove the additional person from the sentence, your instinct will tell you which word is correct, “I” or “me.”
Let’s focus on the last four example sentences, because this is where most people get mixed up. For each sentence, we’ll go through the exercise of choosing between “I” and “me.”
The professor gave Ellie and [I/me] great advice. Here, the speaker and Ellie are in the same part of the sentence. So let's remove Ellie and try out "I" and "me."
The professor gave I great advice. What does your English language instinct tell you? That sounds wrong! Let's try "me" instead. The professor gave me great advice. Ah, much better. "Me" is the correct choice.
So here is the rule to remember: Adding additional people to the sentence never changes whether you should use “I” or “me.”
The professor gave me great advice. The professor gave Ellie and me great advice. Both sentences are correct. When we added Ellie to the sentence, we left “me” just the way it is. There was no reason to change it.
Please listen to Dad and [I/me]. We know what’s best for you. Dad and the speaker are in the same part of the sentence, so let's remove Dad and test the two options.
Please listen to I. Oh dear. That sounds very wrong. Please listen to me. That sounds right, and it is! There's our answer.
Now let's add Dad back into the sentence.
Please listen to me. Please listen to Dad and me. Two correct sentences. We added Dad to the second sentence and changed nothing else.
The journalist wants to write an article about my brother and [I/me]. I hear lots of people say things like, “The journalist wants to write an article about my brother and I.” Now you know what to do. Take the additional person out of the sentence and see if it makes sense.
The journalist wants to write an article about I. That sounds weird! So let's try "me" instead. The journalist wants to write an article about me. Much better. "Me" sounds correct.
Remember, when you add the additional person back into the sentence, don’t change anything else. The journalist wants to write an article about me. The journalist wants to write an article about my brother and me. Perfect! Two correct sentences.
This is a photo of Eric and [I/me] at the holiday party. Many people say things like, “This is a photo of Eric and I.” Is this correct? Let’s check by removing the extra person from the sentence.
This is a photo of I. How does that sound? Ridiculous! That’s because it’s wrong. Let's test our other option. This is a photo of me. Sounds perfectly normal. There’s our answer.
Time to put Eric back into the sentence. This is a photo of me at the holiday party. This is a photo of Eric and me at the holiday party. It doesn’t matter if you add several other people to the sentence. “Me” will still be correct. This is a photo of Eric, John, Irene, Natalie, and me at the holiday party.
Remember: When you're referring to yourself and another person (or many other people) in the same part of a sentence, remove the other person and see if "I" or "me" sounds right. That's your answer.
One other situation that often confuses people is choosing "I" or "me" following the word "between." My trick isn't helpful in this specific scenario, so just remember that the correct phrase is "between you and me." Here, the speaker is the object of the preposition "between," so "me" is the right choice. Here are some examples:
Between you and me, I don't like our new boss.
Ask Trevor to sit between you and me.
Please center the serving tray between Madison and me.
As a final note, I strongly encourage you to not follow the crowd when it comes to choosing between “I” and “me.” I hear many more people getting this decision wrong than right, but you can begin to turn the tide. Just remember the easy trick you learned today, and think for yourself. I know you’ll soon be a master of “I” and “me”!