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Roger Terry: Watch yer language: Just between you and I

By Roger Terry

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, July 10 2012 5:38 p.m. MDT

The most common grammatical faux pas I hear — and I hear it all the time, even from intelligent and educated people — is the overcorrection that replaces “me” with “I.” Let me give a few examples.

  • Ethan called Tricia and I.
  • Matt gave Isabel and I a hundred dollars.
  • You can come with Isaac and I.
  • Let’s keep this just between you and I.

Of course, all of these are incorrect. Let’s look at why. First, though, we need to understand that “I” is always a subject in a sentence. “Me” is always an object.

In the first example, Ethan is the subject, the person doing the calling. “Tricia and I” is a direct object, the people on the receiving end of the action (the calling). But would anyone say, “Ethan called I”? I hope not. We would say, “Ethan called me.” So Ethan would also call Tricia and me.

In the second example, “Matt” is the subject and “Isabel and I” is an object, this time an indirect object. What Matt gave is the direct object (the money). Those who received the money are the indirect objects. Again, we wouldn’t say, “Matt gave I a hundred dollars.” Likewise, we would never say, “Matt gave Isabel and I a hundred dollars.” We would be correct to use “me” in both cases.

The third and fourth examples use prepositions (with and between). Prepositions are generally followed by objects and never by subjects. So, again, it is always improper to use “I” after a preposition. We would never say, “You can come with I.” We would always say, “You can come with me.” So we would also say, “You can come with Isaac and me.”

Now, “between” is a little trickier. “Me” can’t really be the object of the preposition “between.” You can’t say, “Divide that apple between me.” The object is almost always going to be plural. But just remember that “between” is a preposition and is never followed by “I.” So, just between you and me, do me a big favor and never say, “between you and I.” It hurts my ears.

Roger Terry has been a professional editor for 25 years. He has written five books, as well as numerous articles, essays, short stories, book reviews and newspaper columns. He is a sports fanatic and an unrepentant chocoholic.

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