I vs. Me – How to Use Each Correctly
What’s the Difference Between I and Me?
Both of these words refer to the same person (you), although one is a subject pronoun and the other is an object pronoun.
This means that although they both reference oneself, they follow different grammatical rules. This means you cannot exchange one for the other within a sentence.
I is a subject pronoun, and it refers to oneself as the person doing an action in a sentence. Note that the subject appears before the verb in the example below, which is normal.
- I throw the ball to John.
Me also refers to oneself, but it is an object pronoun. This means it acts as the receiver of an action. Note that the object appears after the verb in the example below, which is typical.
- John throws the ball to me.
- John throws me the ball.
In casual spoken English, people often misuse the object pronoun in the subject position, in sentences like Regina and me are going to see a movie. Despite being common, this is an error and should be avoided.
Let’s look at a few ways to use these words in your sentences.
Using I in a Sentence
When to use I: Use I when you want to talk about yourself doing or being something.
- I am the greatest! (being something)
- I write books for a living. (doing something)
In the examples above, I appears before the verb because this is usually the position for subjects within a sentence.
- The usual English sentence goes Subject + Verb + Object.
Because I is one of the most common words in English, there are many idioms and expression which use it. However, it is more useful to talk about two exceptions to the subject / verb sentence position.
Occasionally, I can appear after the verb. This occurs when a pronoun follows a linking verb or a non-action verb. If this seems overly technical, just remember the most common expression It is I. Despite being grammatically correct, this sounds old fashioned and overly formal to many modern ears. Use it in the most formal of contexts, knowing that it is me is more common.
Using Me in a Sentence
When to use me: Use me to refer to yourself when you receive an action. This is usually after the verb.
- He gave me a cold!
- You have my advice. Take it or leave it. You’re under no obligation to listen to me.
Like I, me is a common word that appears in many expressions. Therefore, instead of listing the endless phrases and collocations that occur with me, we will discuss a common error.
People occasionally use me in the subject position.
- Ricardo and me got lost last night.
- Me and Katie were thinking of having a party.
These are both grammatically incorrect, so you will want to eliminate this construction (so-and-so and me as a subject) from your vocabulary.
That said, the phrase so-and-so and me is not always an error. Sometimes, writers hypercorrect themselves by thinking so-and-so and me is always incorrect. It’s only an error when it is in the place of the subject. As an object, this construction works just fine. In fact, it’s the only correct construction.
- Are you going to the party with Ricardo and me? (Correct)
- Are you going to party with Ricardo and I? (Incorrect)
It is possible that people are making this mistake because subject and object cases are rare in English. Additionally, the case system has been declining over the centuries. Old English had five cases, whereas Modern English has only three.
Remembering I vs. Me
One way to remember which of these is the subject and which is the object is to think of the common sentence I am (your name). You would never say Me am (your name). This is because I is the subject of the sentence. It typically comes before the verb.
Another tip when you aren’t sure which to use is to substitute the word with another pronoun.
For example, Jane talked to Bob and I. In this case, hopefully you noticed that Jane is the subject, and Bob and the other person are the objects. They are receiving the action of talking. Therefore, I must change to me to be correct.
If you still aren’t sure, however, substitute I for another subject pronoun like she. Jane talked to Bob and she. You might be able to intuitively sense that it sounds wrong, and Jane talked to Bob and her sounds better. Because the object pronoun her fits better than the subject pronoun she, me also fits better than I.
- “I had my mind made up,” Orr said during an NFL Network interview earlier this summer”. –Houston Chronicle
- I’m a 20-year-old girl. I started working at a restaurant and clicked with “Steve,” one of the other servers. He’s 30. –Denver Post
- “I felt physically ill the day I realized I wasn’t hearing the alarms at work and a colleague had to tell me they were sounding,” she said. “I knew I had to do something.” –OC Register
- “Why is [Rauner] whipsawing Downstate against Chicago?” Siversten asked me one day last week. “The children of Chicago are just as important as all Illinois children.” –Chicago Sun Times
Quiz: Me vs. I
Instructions: Fill in the blank with the correct word, either me or I.
- _________ think you are overreacting.
- Don’t talk to ________.
- Suzy and ________ are going to the pet store.
- Give that paper to Jacob and ________.
See answers below.
Should I use I or me? Generally speaking, use I before the verb and me after the verb.
- I refers to oneself as the person doing an action, or being something.
- Me refers to oneself as the person receiving an action.
Remember that occasionally the subject form will appear after the verb, although rarely.
Answers from Quiz