Writing Worries: “Somebody and I” or “Me and Somebody”

Writer WorriesI am disturbed by an increasing tendency to misuse I when it is joined to another person with and. My personal theory is that repeated childhood corrections of me and somebody did thus-and-such by saying somebody and I has ingrained a mistaken connection on many minds: the idea that using and dictates the personal pronoun I is used.

In reality, whether I or me is correct depends on whether it serves as the subject or object of the sentence. Explaining that properly without turning into a grammar nazi is difficult. If we’re dealing with active verbs (see Passive Voice in Simple Terms), it is mainly a question of whether or not am the one doing something.

Here are examples:

Between you and me, I think Eudora is a dreadful name for a mage.

Bill and I ought to team up on that project.

The troll picked on me and the guy over there.

Do you want to go to dinner with me and my husband?

My husband and I invited her to dinner.

What I find interesting is that the same people who have issues misusing somebody and I often do not have problems using we or us correctly. Or other pronouns, for that matter. Many are even correct if they use I or mealone.

So this is my tip for being sure you use I or me correctly:

Replace somebody and I/me with a simple pronoun–he/him, she/her, they/them, we/us. Once confident of the right one, replace with the corresponding I or me compound.
If heshewe, or they is best, use I. If himherus, or them is best, use me.

For example:

Jill and __ want to write together.

After testing we and us, it is clear We want to write together is correct. So my sentence becomes

Jill and I want to write together.

Example 2:

The whale gave another minnow and __ some steem.

Again we try using we or us instead of another minnow and …. In that case, The whale gave us some steem sounds best, so our sentence becomes:

The whale gave another minnow and me some steem.

Try this test with your own writing and see if it helps.
If you have a tricky one, feel free to post in the comments. Just post with a blank for your pronoun.

Or maybe you have a trick of your own to keep these straight. Feel free to share!

I know these pronouns are especially pesky for non-native speakers. If it makes you feel better, I frequently see college-educated, native speakers making mistakes. So how can we expect you to get it right every time?

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