My partner and I's?

“My partner and I’s bikes were stolen,” a woman posted on my local recently.

Not familiar with Nextdoor? It’s the reason why, some years back, everyone you know in every town from coast to coast started talking about the crime wave hitting their neighborhood. The real crime was social media nudging out local news, siphoning advertising dollars away from professional journalism and toward a barrage of hysterical, context-free anecdotes about porch pirates and noises that sound like gunshots. But I digress.

Point is, a lot of folks go on this hyperlocal social media site to tell their neighbors about crimes, coyote sightings and whatnot and, when they do, they don’t always use perfect grammar. Nothing wrong with that. These aren’t doctoral dissertations. But sometimes the grammar is surprising. Revealing. Like “my partner and I’s.”

As kids, we got it drilled into our heads that “me” is often improper. “Kim and me are going to the park” was swiftly corrected by a parent or teacher saying, “It’s Kim and I, not Kim and me.” This valuable lesson about subject and object pronouns got filtered through our little kid brains and settled there as: “I” is bad. It doesn’t go with Kim or any other person. If you don’t want people to think you’re dumb, avoid “I” anytime there’s an “and” plus another person.

The result: Sentences like “The manager saw him and I” and “This is between you and I” and other “and I” structures that miss the mark of perfect grammar precisely because the speaker was trying too hard to be proper.

A lot of experts point out that these sentence structures are acceptable in casual speech. But that’s the problem. The folks using “I” this way are aiming for proper speech. They’re trying to be as grammatical as possible, and it backfires.

I explain how to avoid this problem in my recent column.

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