When to use ‘I’ or ‘me’ frequently causes difficulties in English language usage. Consequently, it is not uncommon to hear the two personal pronouns being used incorrectly.
We use personal pronouns to replace specific nouns such as names, places and things. In addition to I/me, we also use he/him to refer to men, she/her to refer to women and we/us or they/them for plural or gender neutral nouns. These pronouns are essentially used to improve the flow of sentences and also to avoid continued repetition.
Fortunately, the confusion between I/me is one of the easiest English grammar usage mistakes to rectify.
Pronouns are words that replace nouns. Personal pronouns such as I/me, he/him, she/her and they/them may be used as the:
- Subject of a verb, or
- the object of a verb.
The remaining personal pronouns are it/it and you/you. Hence, little consideration needs to be given to their usage.
The personal pronoun ‘I’ is a subject pronoun. It is the subject of a verb. Subject pronouns are positioned before the verb and are used in the same context as he, she, we and they. For example:
- I like tea.
- I am running.
The personal pronoun ‘me’ is an object pronoun. It is the object of a verb. Object pronouns are positioned after the verb and are used in the context as him, her, us and them. It is the object of a verb. For example:
- The bus driver waited for me.
- Does James know me?
How to Select ‘I’ or ‘Me’
Problems typically arise when the sentence is a more complex. For example:
Therefore, ‘Joan and I walked to school today’ correctly uses the personal pronoun ‘I.’ ‘Me walked to school today’ is grammatically incorrect and not something we would say in the course of ordinary conversation. Also, if we follow convention, subject pronouns are positioned before the verb. In this instance, the personal pronoun I/me is situated prior to the verb ‘walked.’ As, previously stated, the subject pronoun, in this example, is ‘I.’
Examples of the Correct Use of ‘I’
My daughter Suzy and I baked a chocolate cake.
My friends and I went shopping.
Next year, John and I will be fifty.
Liz and I like to drink coffee.
Examples of the Correct Use of ‘Me’
I heard the nurse calling me.
My friend Lucy invited me to her party.
Please call me urgently.
She was talking about Fred and me.