Between You and ___ (Me or I)?

This is just a very short grammar point that appeared in a recent blog posting. I thought I would preserve my response here for posterity and for later reference.

In English, a noun is defined as the name of a person, place, or thing.

A pronoun is a word that can stand for (represent) a noun.

Nouns and pronouns have several attributes:

  • Person (first, second, third)
  • Number (singular or plural)
  • Case (nominative or objective)
  • Type (common or proper)

This brief lesson will cover the case of a noun or pronoun.

There are two cases for a noun or pronoun:

  • nominative case(boy, car, I, you, he, she, it)
  • objective case (boy, car,me, you, him, her, it)

Nouns generally have the same form for both cases.

Pronouns, however, have distinctly different cases that must be used correctly.

  • Nominative case is used for nouns and pronouns that act as the subjectof a sentence.
  • Objective case is used for nouns or pronouns that act as direct objects,indirect objects, or objects of a preposition. Note that the word “object” in each of these terms is a visual clue that they require their noun to be in objective case.

Thus, to answer the eponymous question, “Is it between you and I or between you and me?”, the answer is that the preposition “between” requires an “object of the preposition”, which requires objective case, so the correct answer is:

Between you and me

You would be surprised to know that even some famous Americans get this grammar point wrong when speaking on TV!

A special “case” of using noun case.

Which is correct: I am him? or I am he?

Which is correct: It is me. or It is I.

Well, the answer depends on what case him/he/me/I should be, doesn’t it?

The verb “to be” (is/am/are/was/were) is called a linking verb. When there is a noun or pronoun on both sides, they are considered to be equal in case. Therefore, “I am he” requires nominative case on both sides of the verb “to be”. I = he.

Example:

Caller: (dials my phone number)

Lee: Hello?

Caller: I’m looking for Lee Wright.

Lee: I am he. What can I do for you?

“I am he” sounds strange, doesn’t it? “I am him” sounds more natural to the ears, don’t you think? So do many Americans (think this way). So you will often hear Americans say “I am him” or “It is me” instead of “I am he” or “It is I.” While grammatically incorrect, these expressions are common and acceptable in most settings.

Self Assessment

Which pronoun is grammatically correct?

  1. It was she/her that did it.

  2. I saw she/her do it.

  3. It was the audience theyselves/themselves that were fooled by the illusion.

  4. It was I/me that called you yesterday.

  5. He called I/me yesterday.

  6. I jump through the door and shout, “It is me/I!”

 

Leave a Reply