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“... and I” vs. "... and me"

I have heard the president hypercorrect personal pronouns as in “he gave it to Michelle and I.” Is this common now even in the highly educated? Would this have been heard by a highly educated person 30 years ago?

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A few years ago while listening to Classic FM in the UK a chap, who sounded well educated, 'phoned in a request which he said was in celebration of "my wife and I's birthday".
A little learning and all that ...................................

Hairy Scot October 15, 2012, 1:50pm

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Now Margaret's curse is fall'n upon our heads,
When she exclaim'd on Hastings, you, and I,
For standing by when Richard stabb'd her son.

Shakespeare, The Tragedy of King Richard the Third, III iii

goofy October 16, 2012, 1:05pm

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It's a bit racist to criticize the president's speech patterns, isn't it? Just because he uses some locutions that you as a white person don't, doesn't make it okay for you to become the authority on his language. He may not be from your culture, and may not speak like you do, but he is still a brilliant man.

crenshaw October 16, 2012, 8:21pm

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"you, and I" in that Shakespearean sentence are in the vocative case. They are not objects of any verb, nor are they possessives, and thus provide nothing for this discussion.

jack et. al. October 16, 2012, 8:26pm

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@crenshaw, I think you're being far more racially transfixed than the poster of this question. Language knows no color, but I suppose if you think that black people are less able than whites to use proper grammar and syntax, then I suppose we'll have to have another conversation

StieglNutt73 October 17, 2012, 1:47pm

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Perhaps if people weren't continually being 'corrected' for using perfectly good natural English utterances like 'He's taller than me' , 'She's the same age as me', and Hi, it's me', there would be a bit less hypercorrection.

@jack et. al.- goofy's comment was totally pertinent to the discussion, even if, I think, a bit tongue in cheek.. - "you, and I" in that Shakespearean sentence are objects of the prepositional verb "exclaimed on". In any case in this scene, where Grey is talking to Rivers while awaiting their execution, Hastings isn't present, so it couldn't possibly be vocative, even if such a case existed in English, which I would dispute. Nor would vocative make sense with the line that follows - "for standing by ...". In modern English, it might go something like 'When she publicly named Hastings, you and me for standing by ...'

Warsaw Will October 17, 2012, 1:53pm

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@jack et. al.- not to mention the fact that even in Latin, vocative is not used with "I", unless that is of course, that you are in the habit of going around addressing yourself - O I!.

Warsaw Will October 17, 2012, 2:46pm

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Drat that extra that!

Warsaw Will October 17, 2012, 2:47pm

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There was nothing about race until you brought it up. The author of the original post even said that the president is a brilliant man and asked if that is a trend in English, even for those brilliant people.

The question is based more English grammar and syntax with "me" being the objective case and "I" being the subjective case. In the example sentence, "He" is the subject of the sentence and "Michelle and I" are used in the objective place so the rules of English grammar dictact that "me" would be the proper first person pronoun to be used. Now with race out of the equation, the original question still stands.

It would seem that 1st person pronouns get switched all the time but I could not say whether or not that would allow for it to be proper grammar though. Great question.

theophilus31288 October 18, 2012, 10:24am

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There is some variation across the English speaking population including a variation often used by African-Americans. Theses differences are found in such things as the acceptability of double negatives or regularizing irregular verbs. Look up AAE or AAVE. There are differences to which one should be sensitive, but this is NOT one of them.

In this case, this is an error you find more in people who are educated and pay close attention to their grammar, such as the president.

Firecracker October 19, 2012, 12:39pm

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I am a new member and I ,me and myself are wondering if I have gotten in over my noggin.Would someone here be kind enough to correct the Presidents phrase if it is not correct? Please dumb it down for me? Thank you.

Frogwhisperer October 20, 2012, 12:02pm

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@Frogwhisperer - 'He gave it to Michelle and me' - Michelle and me are the objects of the preposition 'it', so the pronoun should be in theory be in the object form (or objective case) - so me, not I, which is the subject form (or subjective case).

Warsaw Will October 21, 2012, 10:01am

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Will, I assume that was just a careless typo, but "it" isn't a preposition. It is the direct object. "Michelle and me" are the indirect objects. I'm not quite sure why you chose to give "ownership" of the objects to a preposition, but in any case, I think you meant "to" not "it".

porsche October 22, 2012, 11:45am

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Thank you for your answer and correction to your answer. This takes me back to my childhood when my mother continually corrected me. "Pammie and me are going to play." "No dear, you must say Pammie and I." "Okay mom" I said. Now awaiting corrections ;)

Frogwhisperer October 22, 2012, 1:09pm

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@porsche - you are quite right, I meant "to". I take your point about the indirect object, but the way we teach it in TEFL, and perhaps more widely too (see the second example in the second link), the term "indirect object" is usually reserved for non-prepositional use when it comes immediately after the verb and before the direct object, as in "He gave Michelle and me a hard time.", otherwise we tend to call it a prepositional phrase. And then the same rule works for all prepositions, not just "to" and "for". But I think both approaches are valid.

As I understand it, every preposition must have an object, usually called "the object of the preposition", and that's what I personally would call "Michelle and I (me)" here. Which is why, of course, some people insist on "whom" where I would say "Who was he talking about?", precisely because "who(m)" is the object of the preposition "about". No indirect object there. Although I suppose you could also see it as the direct object of the phrasal verb "talk about". Again, I think, both approaches are valid.

Warsaw Will October 23, 2012, 9:14am

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Sorry - prepositional verb -"talk about" - not phrasal verb.

Warsaw Will October 23, 2012, 2:06pm

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its mainly just being polite. you could say me and mitchell went to the store, or you could say mitchell and i went to the store, so to speak.

brandieliz44777 October 25, 2012, 4:46am

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@brandieliz44777 - you're absolutely right, when we are talking about the subject, as in your examples. Strict grammarians would argue that in your examples, only "Mitchell and I" was correct, although many of us would be quite happy to use "Me and Mitchell went to the store" informally. I find it interesting that when we use "I", we usually put the other person first, but when we use "Me" it's usually "Me first".

But in the example given in the question, it's the other way round. "Michelle and I" are not the subject. They are either indirect objects or prepositional objects, depending on your point of view, so those same strict grammarians would insist on "Michelle and me". And many other not so strict grammarians would agree with them. Hence the question, and why the questioner speaks of hypercorrection.

Perhaps a better analogy would be with what some people think to be the classic example of hypercorrection, "between you and I". The argument being that people who say this think it "sounds" more correct, when in fact the technically correct version is "between you and me", as prepositions should be followed by an object form. (Although there may be idiomatic arguments in its favour).

Interestingly RW Burchfield, writing in The New Fowler's, seems to get much more upset about people using the subject form instead of the object form as in "between you and I", than the other way around, as in "Me and Mitchell went to the store".

Warsaw Will October 26, 2012, 10:35am

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The original poster's question has come up for me, too. I have noticed a much greater use of "I" when it's the object of a preposition or a sentence -- among newscasters, pundits, actors, and even writers of all skin colors and ethnic origins -- as if people who were once corrected for saying "Me and Mitchell are going out" are now putting "I" everywhere just to be safe, as in "She talked to Mary and I," or, "He sat beside Jim and I." I've observed no racial or ethnic relationship, though most of the offenders do tend to be younger, perhaps under 40 or so.

MedEd October 31, 2012, 7:25am

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Barrie England has an interesting article on the subject at Real Grammar -

Warsaw Will November 4, 2012, 9:33am

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I just came across this sentence - "[they're] just a couple of blokes, not that different from you or I, ..." - in a comment in the Guardian, which, although I wouldn't say it myself, doesn't sound that bad to me. So I did a little experiment - first I tried Ngram, where "different form you or I" registers absolutely zilch. So then I tried Google Books, where "different from you or I" gets a mere 357 as opposed to 2770 for "different from you and me", and the full phrase "not that different from you or I" gets just 2 compared with 64 for the "me" version.

But on the Internet it's a different story - a Google search for "not that different from you or I" gets 15,900 hits, but the "me" version is not even double that - 25,900, and when I tried "different from you or I", the difference is staggering - 1,920,000 for the "I" version in comparison with only 314,000 for the "me" version. Now admittedly the first entry for the former was - “I am different from you,” or “I am a different kind of person than you.” - but all the entries in the next ten pages were for the full phrase "different from you or I".

So it looks as though there's quite a difference between what is seen as acceptable for published works, and what people are actually saying. But can anyone tell me why this doesn't seem to sound as bad (to me) as "he gave it to Michelle and me". Has it become almost idiomatic?

Warsaw Will November 5, 2012, 2:39am

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Mark Liberman, of the University of Pennsylvania, has a post on this phenomenon at Language Log -

Warsaw Will November 17, 2012, 5:35am

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Just because someone is black, you can't comment on how they can't talk.. but a black person could comment on how a white person talks? Stop double thinking. Apply your logic thoroughly to all situations. A person is a person, it doesn't matter what race.

an0nymous November 29, 2012, 7:21am

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They are both correct in English terms, but if you want to follow the Queens language then you say, ''He gave it to Michelle and me''. I live in Cheshire where its full of old school, old fashioned true Englishmen, and you'll hear both used often, but ''me'' is used by the Queen, so that's why i commented. Also you can use myself.

marnold December 1, 2012, 6:16am

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Prepositions take the accusative..

Skeeter Lewis December 1, 2012, 11:52am

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Okay, objective....

Skeeter Lewis December 1, 2012, 11:55am

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@Skeeter Lewis - and to complete the trilogy - object form - that's the term we use in TEFL, where we don't talk much about case.

@marnold - 'He gave it to Michelle and myself' - you're asking for trouble with that one; there are a lot of myself haters out there.

Warsaw Will December 2, 2012, 4:39am

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Yes     No