A common mistake in people’s writing is to confuse I and me with each other. Both are personal pronouns, but they serve different purposes within the sentence.
In many circles, this can be a costly mistake, as it’s usually considered a sign of sloppy writing. In other words, if you are writing a research paper, a press release, a resume, etc., you will want to know how to use I vs. me.
In this post, I will cover everything you need to know about these two words, and once you’re done reading, you won’t have any trouble determining when to use me or I.
What is the Difference Between I and Me?
To start, let’s look at the basics of I vs. me.
I and me are both first person pronouns. Pronouns are words that stand in for other nouns. For example, you can say,
- The bike belongs to Bill.
-or you can say-
- The bike belongs to him.
Him is standing in for Bill; it is a pronoun.
First person pronouns are used by the speaker (or writer) to refer to himself or herself. When talking about yourself, you generally use one of these two words.
- I went to the mall today.
- Molly came with me.
In both of these sentences, I am talking about myself, using either I or me.
Now, let’s move on to when to use I or me.
When to Use I
I is used as a subjective pronoun. This simply means that it functions as the subject of a sentence.
- I play basketball
- I ate a pizza.
- I went to lunch.
- Me went to lunch.
I functions just the same as other subjective pronouns, such as he, she, you, etc.
- I went to the beach.
- He went to the beach.
- She went to the beach.
- You went to the beach.
The important point here is that I is a subject. As such, you should expect to see it near verbs or at the beginning of phrases.
When to Use Me
Me is used as an objective pronoun. This means that it functions as an object in our sentences.
- He thanked me. (Direct object)
- Ashley went to lunch with Molly and me. (Indirect object/Object of preposition)
- Ashley went to lunch with Molly and I.
Me functions just the same as other objective pronouns, such as him, her, you, etc.
- She congratulated me.
- She congratulated him.
- She congratulated her.
- She congratulated you.
The important point with me is that it functions as an object. As such, you should expect to see it appearing after verbs or prepositions.
- I is a subject.
- Me is an object.
Common Mistakes: I vs. Me
Most of the confusion surrounding these words occurs when you have I/me connected to another pronoun or name along with the words and/or. For example, which of the following is correct?
- You and I went to the movies.
- You and me went to the movies.
You and I or You and Me?
The you and I or you and me formation is commonly confused, but once you examine how the words are being used, it’s pretty straightforward.
- You and I went to the movies. (Correct)
- You and me went to the movies. (Wrong)
In this sentence, You and I forms a compound subject. Since this phrase is being used as the subject of the sentence, me cannot be the correct choice.
You should never have you and me in the place of a subject in your sentence.
And I or And me?
Here’s another example of the and I or and me formation.
- Did you see John and I at the party? (Wrong)
- Did you see John and me at the party? (Correct)
In this sentence, John and me are both direct objects. Since they are both objects, I cannot be the correct choice.
Between You and Me
Between is a preposition, and in English, prepositions are followed by objects. For example,
- She left with him.
- She left with he.
Him is an objective pronoun, while he is a subjective pronoun. Now, let’s apply this to our phrase between you and me. We need an object to follow between, not a subject.
Since I cannot function as an object, we know that me is the correct choice. Therefore, the correct phrase is between you and me.
- Between you and me, he is not qualified. (Correct)
- Between you and I, he is not qualified. (Incorrect)
The incorrect phrase between you and I is most likely a hypercorrection people make when dealing with the pronoun I.
We can all remember our English teachers saying “always use you and I; never use you and me.” (I even said this above.)
- You and I went swimming.
- You and me went swimming.
When teachers say this, however, they mean never to use you and me as a subject.
In the phrase between you and me, me is correct because it is in the place of an object.
In other words, I is not always the correct choice simply by its nature. It’s not “more proper” than me; it just performs the role of a subject, while me performs the role of an object.
That is I or That is Me / It is I or It is Me
- He is my friend.
In this sentence is is connecting the subject he to its subject complement, which is a word (in the subjective case) that re-describes the subject.
As you might imagine, my friend can also function as the subject of a sentence,
- My friend is six feet tall.
Now, let’s apply this to the phrases that is I / that is me or this is I / this is me.
What is the subject of our sentence? Clearly is it that/this.
- That is…
- This is…
- That is I.
- This is I.
Despite sounding affected or even pretentious, that is I is actually the correct structure.
This is why it is common to hear someone answer the phone saying,
- This is she.
- This is he.
Notice it is not this is her or this is him.
That said, it is quite common for people to say that is me, and you are unlikely to ever find someone correcting you on this issue–especially in speech.
Than I or Than Me
Traditional grammar has held, since the 1700s, that than is a conjunction in all of its uses.
- John is taller than Ben.
The above sentence is considered an elliptical version of the sentence,
- John is taller than Ben is.
Therefore, the pronoun following than is determined by whether the pronoun serves as the subject or object in the completed second clause of the sentence. For example,
- John is taller than I.
- John is taller than me.
- John is taller than I is an elliptical version of John is taller than I am.
Better than I or better than me?
This same rule goes for other variations of than me or than I.
- Michael Jordan is better at basketball than I (am).
- Michael Jordan is better at basketball than me.
Can Than be a Preposition?
Despite the traditional use of than as a conjunction, some have argued that it can also be used as a preposition, similar to between.
- Keep this between you and me.
Since between is a preposition, it should be followed by an objective pronoun (see above). The argument for than as a preposition is similar.
- You are better than me.
Traditional grammarians still insist that You are better than I is the only correct form, and than me is still widely regarded as incorrect.
Given this fact, it’s best to adhere to the traditional rule in your formal writing.
Trick to Remember the Difference
If you’re still not sure when to use me and you and you and me or and me or and I, here is a good trick that will help you remember.
When you run across a sentence that confuses you, remove the other person from the sentence and try it out with just I or me. For example,
- The cat followed (me or I?).
- The cat followed me.
- The cat followed I.
Clearly, me is the correct choice.
- If Jane and (me or I?) go to the movies, it will be at 6:30.
- If me go to the movies, it will be at 6:30.
- If I go to the movies, it will be at 6:30.
In this example, I is the correct choice.
This exercise is helpful when determining me vs. I, and it will get you by most of the time.
While these words can be tough to remember, it’s important to use them correctly.
I is used as a subject.
Me is used as an object.