'People like you and I feel betrayed'? Or should that be 'me'?

“People like you and I feel betrayed.”

See anything wrong with that sentence? Most people probably don’t, but there is a problem with it and, for me, the problem is eye-opening.

Here’s the issue: If you want to be as proper and correct as possible, that “I” should be “me.” And for all the years I’ve spent attuned to the finer points of choosing “me” over “I,” I don’t believe I ever considered this situation until I came across this sentence recently in an article I was reading.

I know what you grammar-savvy types are thinking: “I” is a subject here. It’s performing the verb “feel.” And you’re right that “I feel betrayed” is normally the correct choice over “me feel betrayed.” The “you” doesn’t change that. It’s “you and I feel betrayed,” not “you and me feel betrayed.”

But there’s more going on in this sentence than meets the eye. And to see why “me” is the better choice here, it’s best to start with a review of subject and object pronouns.

When a pronoun is performing the action in a verb, it’s a subject. The personal pronouns in subject form are: I, you, he, she, it, we and they.

When a pronoun is receiving the action of a verb, it’s an object. The personal pronouns in object form are: me, you, him, her, it, us and them.

You’re probably already a master of subject and object pronouns in most situations. You wouldn’t say, “Us watched a movie,” using the object form. You’d say, “We watched a movie,” using the subject form, because that’s who’s doing the watching. That’s why “I feel betrayed” is normally correct and “Me feel betrayed” is not.

But our sentence, “People like you and I feel betrayed,” is a trap. “I” looks like a subject. But it’s not. The real subject of this sentence is “people”: “people feel betrayed.” Read more about it here in my recent column.

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