The Nitty-Gritty of Writing: I versus Me

Tell me if this sounds familiar: as a child, you explained that “Sue and me went to the pool today,” or “Daddy bought toys for Sue and me.” And then a well-meaning adult instructed you to say “Sue and I,” not “Sue and me.”

Well, one of those would be correct. The other is not.

Let me give you some grammarly background. I is a pronoun (meaning it’s a word that takes the place of a proper noun). In this case, you would use I to talk about yourself, so that you don’t use your own name and go around talking about yourself in the third person like Elmo. A noun is usually the subject of a sentence.

The word me is a direct or indirect object (specifically, the personal pronoun in the objective case). Anyway, what this means is that me is the object being acting upon by the verb and subject of the sentence.

In the first sentence example above, Sue and the speaker are the subjects of the sentence. So I would be the proper pronoun to use here. An easy way to test this: remove the other subject (Sue) from the sentence.

Which one sounds correct? “Me went to the pool,” or “I went to the pool.” Yep, the second one is correct. So dear old Ma was right when she told you to say “Sue and I went to the pool today.”

In the second example of “Daddy bought toys for Sue and me,” Daddy is the subject of the sentence. Sue and the speaker are the direct objects (the nouns that are receiving the action of the verb – in this case, the people receiving the toys bought by Daddy). So the objective case pronoun would be the correct one to use.

Again, test it by removing the other direct object (Sue) from the sentence. “Daddy bought toys for me,” or “Daddy bought toys for I.” Yep, this time it’s me. Dear old Ma got that one wrong if she told you to use I.

So if you’re talking or writing about yourself and someone (or something) else, just remove the other person from the sentence to see if it should be I or me. If you’re fluent enough in English to be reading this blog post, then you can trust your ear to know which self-pronoun sounds right.

Of course, you can avoid the whole mess and use “we” or “us.” Just remember that “we” is the subjective pronoun, and “us” is the objective pronoun.

Or you can keep it really simple and just talk like Elmo.