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I will bet you a hundred theoretical bucks that you make this grammar mistake all the time and don’t know it

Elizabeth Bromstein|

I’m not actually the sort to get all persnickety about grammar outside my work as an editor. I don’t care if a non-professional writer misuses an apostrophe on social media, or confuses “there” with “their.” If I can understand what you’re trying to say, I’m not going to pick on you for making a mistake while saying it. That just gets in the way of communication.

That being said, I feel the need to address one particular grammatical error people keep making, mainly because I think you might want to know you’re making it. Also because I constantly see the same superior people who are always condescendingly correcting other people’s grammar mistakes making this mistake (in fact, they’re probably the worst offenders). They would want to know, right?

And it might make a difference when you’re applying for a job, if you come across a hiring manager who knows this rule and cares. So, please. Learn this lesson, then go forth and share it far and wide.

Let’s start with a quick test. Fill in the blanks in the following sentences:

    Dick, Jane and __ went to karaoke on Saturday night.

    a) I
    b) me

    Dick got up on stage and sang with Jane and __.

    a) I
    b) me

    Did you see Dick, Jane and __ on stage?

    a) I
    b) me

    Afterwards, Jane drove Dick and __ home.

    a) I
    b) me

    Just between you and __, Jane is a terrible singer.

    a) I
    b) me

Answers: a, b, b, b, b.

How did you do? Many of you probably answered with all “a”s. But that, in all instances but the first sentence, is wrong.

Somewhere along the way people appear to have gotten the idea that the only acceptable conjunction-pronoun combination ever is “and I.” This is wrong. “And I” is sometimes correct. “And me” is also sometimes correct.

How can you tell? Remove the other people before you and see if the sentence still makes sense. For example. If you remove Dick and Jane from the following sentence you get:

Dick, Jane and Me went to karaoke on Saturday night.

Is that correct? Not unless you’re Tarzan. So it’s “and I.”

Now, how about if you remove Jane from this sentence?

Dick got up on stage and sang with Jane and I.

Is that correct? No. Not sure? Read it again without the stricken words:

Dick got up on stage and sang with I.

See? In this case, “and me” is correct.

It might help you to know that “I” is a subjective pronoun and “me” is an objective pronoun. It might not. It never helped me.

Grammar Girl, who is good at wording these things so they make sense, explains on her site that the reason it gets tricky with “you” is that “when you combine I and me with you is, you is both a subjective and an objective pronoun.”

Sometimes “you” is combined with “I” of course, such as in Celine Dion’s You and I.

Why does this work? Because the sentence is “You and I were meant to fly.” You wouldn’t say “Me was meant to fly.” You’d say “I was meant to fly.”

But it gets a little trickier with “Just between you and…” because you can’t just use my trick. So, what can you do? Just follow the rules.

According to Grammar Girl, “between” is a preposition and “prepositions are part of prepositional phrases. . . And it’s just a rule that pronouns following prepositions in those phrases are always in the objective case. When you’re using the objective case, the correct pronoun is me, so the correct prepositional phrase is between you and me.”

So, in this case, April Wine gets it right, with Just Between You and Me. Jessica Simpson, who has a song called Between You & I (something I learned from Grammar Girl), gets it wrong.

I also find it helpful to flip or move things around. You wouldn’t say “Just between I and you,” so it must be the other one.

The next time you’re about to reflexively use “and I” ask yourself if maybe you shouldn’t be using “and me.”

Then ask yourself, what would April Wine do? And do that. Always do that.

PS. Please note that the $100 I bet you is, again, theoretical. I’m not actually going to send you $100 dollars if I was wrong. If I was wrong though, and you did win this bet, why not go buy yourself something nice? Pretend I bought it for you. Keep it under a hundred bucks, though. I’m not made of imaginary money.

PPS. There will be at least one typo or grammatical error in this story as it is the law of the universe that whenever one writes about writing, typos, grammar, etc. one will make at least one mistake so that readers can point to it as though it is the irony of the century. Please note that I am aware of this.

Category: Industry News & Insights,
  • Angus McHail

    As the old saying goes, “Be nice to people on your way up; you’ll meet the same ones on your way back down.”

    I’ve observed two discourteous management types:

    a) Those who can’t even be bothered to say, ‘Good morning.”, because there’s no money in it.

    b) Those who are just so socially dysfunctional that they’re incapable of common courtesy. They’re perhaps more to be pitied than scorned.

    • waynecoghlan

      Evidence supports that people with a high functional emotional intelligence make more money and are happier in life. As business is about people… yes even people moving money about… being nice is profitable.

  • theta53

    Elizabeth you are hysterically funny. I’m going back into the article to see if I can find a grammar mistake. Law of the Universe, right?

  • Llethander

    I prefer to use “myself” in place of “me” as it sounds more sophisticated. /pinkyout

  • JoAnne Davis

    I didn’t make those mistakes–I am sure that I make many–those, above, are truly cringe worthy.

  • waynecoghlan

    Is it “you and me,” or “me and you?”

  • Stephen Collens

    Using “myself” as a replacement for “me” is also a common current misuse. “Myself” is reflexive and should only be used as the objective when “I” is used as the subject.

  • Chris

    People in my community use a colloquialism that makes me cringe whenever I hear it; that is, “I seen” (e.g. “I seen you at the market yesterday.”) How does one politely correct the improper grammar of another? (Have I used the correct punctuation here?) I’m happy to hear there’s a Grammar Girl online; I think I’ll check her out!