Sometimes 'me' is better than 'I'

For people who want to speak and write “properly,” the most basic, possibly most important issue to master is illustrated in the following sentence: “Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with Bill and me.”

When you’re aiming to use the language well, the temptation to change that “me” to “I” is strong. For most of us, this urge is rooted in childhood. Every time we said, “Stephanie and me are going to school,” we were corrected. It’s “Stephanie and I,” we were told. After hearing that a thousand times, we were left with the impression that “I” is always the proper choice.

Not true. “Me” is often the best choice and, if you’re aiming for “proper English,” it’s often the only correct choice.

The trick is to figure out whether your pronoun is an object or a subject.

Subject pronouns perform the action of a verb. They are: I, you, he, she, it, we, they and who. I made coffee. You work hard. He walks fast. Who did this? In every case, subject pronouns do the action.

Object pronouns receive the action of a verb or serve as the object of a preposition. They are: me, you, him, her, it, us, them and whom.

In “Maggie shot Mr. Burns,” Maggie is doing the action. So she’s the subject of the verb. Mr. Burns is on the receiving end. That makes him the object. So when we replace his name with a pronoun, we use the object pronoun “him” instead of the subject pronoun “he”: Maggie shot him.

Objects of prepositions aren’t as widely understood. Here's my recent column explaining how they work with object pronouns.

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