January 21, 2008

Just between you and me (or is it "I"?)

Thank you to everyone who left a comment for my previous post. In my opinion, the answers are B, A, A. To follow is an explanation. Please read it through and keep in mind that in the photos I used, those who are pictured become objects and "I" can never be an object. If someone were to ask me, "Who is this?" while pointing to a picture of me, would it be correct to say, "That's I"? Read on...

First let's look at case--that is, the difference between the subject and object forms of the pronouns. We know what subjects are, and objects are those words that come at the end of prepositional phrases (among other things). You probably already know the differences, but just in case, here's a list of the forms:

Subject - Object

I - me

you - you

he - him

she - her

it- it

we - us

they - them

The only thing you need to know is that these forms can't be switched around. If the word is a subject, it must be a subject form; if it's an object . . . well, you get the idea. Consider the following:

  • Peggy and me barked at the garbage truck.
  • Her and me fought over the bone.

Some of you are probably thinking, "What's wrong with these?" In spoken English, you'll hear things like this every day. But in written English, you need to make sure your forms aren't mixed up. The correct versions are "Peggy and I" and "She and I," since the words are the subject of the sentence. Nothing in the object list can be a subject--ever! You wouldn't say, "Me barked" or "me fought"--unless you were Tarzan.

The same goes for objects of prepositions. You can't use a subject form in a prepositional phrase.

  • Big Dog fetched the paper for her and I.
  • Peggy ran after John and she.
"For I"? "After she"? These can't be right, since both are in the subject list; but, they're used as object of the preposition. The correct versions are "for me" and after her." You shouln't have as much trouble with these because you don't hear them misused quite as often in the way. But watch out for "Just between you and I." That phrase gets a lot of use--even though "I" can't be an object. It's "just between you and me"!

If you had enough time to read and consider this post, feel free to leave a comment!


queen of sheba said...

Hi Mary!
You are right on!
I even double checked my previous answers through my husband who is an English major, and an English teacher. Of course, I know "correct" answers, but try to explain "why it's right or wrong" is well, a little different. At least for me ;)

The Capo's said...


Alisha said...

Mrs. E
Great English lesson! I know I don't always pay attention to such things on my blog. I will try to be more careful :)