The English Pedant – Me, myself and I

Pedant door
Whoever came up with this, congratulations and I’ll be happy to credit you if you let me know.

There is a basic bit of bad grammar that primary school teachers have been trying to eradicate for decades, possibly centuries. It is the child’s tendency, when talking about himself and another person, to say “Me and Charlie went to the beach yesterday”.

There are two things wrong with this. Firstly, out of courtesy we should put the other person first.

Secondly, but perhaps more importantly, it’s not me, it’s I. If were talking only about ourselves it would be “I went to the beach”. So why should it change just because there’s someone else involved?

Having learned that it should be “Charlie and I”, off we go down the conversational road with the impression that me is a bad word.

It’s not. Me is used when we’re the object, the person on the receiving and. So “I talked to him” is correct. But when the other person is the subject and we are the object, it’s “He talked to me.” Just as he and him change around according to who’s doing the talking, so I and me change too.

So far, so good. But then we get to the point where something happens to both of us – we are the objects, not the subjects. “It happened to him and me”. He changes to him, and I changes to me. It is not “It happened to him and I”.

It’s “between you and me”, not “between you and I”.

Going back to Charlie and me (not Charlie and I, because we are not doing the going back), maybe it is because the name doesn’t change that people assume the personal pronoun shouldn’t either. On the other hand, if we’re talking about “Charlie and I” as a concept, like the title of a book, then it wouldn’t change – and that may well be a confusing element in the murky depths of some people’s thinking.

There are people who will go to any lengths to avoid referring to themselves as “me”. They’ll say “There were just the two of us at the meeting. Myself and him.”

It’s done with the best of intentions – it’s just misguided.

And that’s all from me for now.

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