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The difference between you and I

Is youse or I'z smartz aiiite?

Imagine this situation.

You’re having a conversation with a friend or family member, a colleague, someone you barely know. You say to them “I can’t meet up on Wednesday night, mum has invited my brother and me around for dinner”.  Your partner looks at you and then, with a completely straight face replies “you mean, my brother and I”.

Well, actually, NO!

“I” is not the correct pronoun to use.

“Me” is.

You wouldn’t say “my mum invited I around for dinner”. So with the addition of “brother” to this sentence what changes?

Nothing.

So why do people so often insist on using “I” where it is not necessary?

Maybe it has something to do with people’s desire to sound smart, when in actuality you come off sounding ignorant. Or more simply, they were corrected once and it stuck, they didn’t bother to question.

Sorry to rant but please bear with my anti grammar-Nazi spiel for a moment.

The technical explanation for this conundrum is as follows. ‘I’ is a normative pronoun, therefore it should be used as a subject within a sentence. On the other hand ‘me’ is an objective pronoun and should be the object of a sentence.

That may have confused you even more. The simple way to work out what is the proper pronoun to use is to drop the second object from the sentence. For example, “Please help Ariff and I” is incorrect. If you dropped Ariff from this sentence you wouldn’t say, “Please help I”. Similarly, “would you explain that to Ariff and I” just doesn’t make sense when said “please explain that to I”.

I’m not complaining, only saying that people need to chill. Unless you perfectly understand all the nuance of English grammar, don’t shut people down when they are being polite by talking to you in the first place. You come off sounding condescending.

In 2005 I lived in rural China teaching conversational English to middle school students. I probably over jumped the mark saying ‘teaching’. More like I told the students stories and they asked me questions. It was a way for them to practice their conversation skills.

Although many of them had problems with speaking and writing in English, if I asked, they could give me the textbook definition of a parallel construction. I couldn’t do this, but I could use one correctly in a sentence without even knowing it.

Hopefully I’m making myself understandable, clear and to the point.

I’m sure I have made a few technical grammar mistakes right here. A linguistics professor at university once told me I have a problem mixing up my tenses – however, he didn’t act smug when he informed me. He was only trying to help me become a better writer.

I guess my point is – we as native speakers know by ear what sounds right and what doesn’t. Just speak how you are feeling it. Don’t second guess or undermine people. Unless of course, they utter youse in a sentence. Then by all means lay a grammatical smack down on their arse.

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5 responses to “The difference between you and I

  1. Youse have layne a tight piece right about hurrr..
    Me is liking all the aboutness of grammartical incorrectness and your brining up the points of it.

    Me certaintly doesnt like the grammartical hitlers.

    many thanks to youse forza gret poast.

  2. Nikhil Hariharan ⋅

    i enjoyed reading this jordan.. i’ve been accused of being a grammar nazi before, but i don’t think i’ve ever dug too deep on this one. i guess the question is whether or not saying “my brother and i” is polite – because it sounds more formal. the basic theory behind this would probably be: if ‘i’ were the subject of a sentence, the object of the sentence would be ‘me’ (from the net). playing around with that rule would find you the best sounding phrase. an interesting thought for the day man. excuse my lack of ‘majuscules’.. 🙂
    – nikhil
    p.s. – great blog!

  3. jesus cdf ⋅

    well written jordan and quite humorous. good point.

  4. witawitski ⋅

    Good one!

    Everyone in English speaking country should read this blog so they can chill more when engaging in conversational events and hopefully becoming less of ‘Nazi’s-grammatical-bitches’. I am not one of those “[English] native speakers [but] know by ear what sounds right and what doesn’t”. In many occasions only that matters.

    Just a simple example, most religious or non-religious people can be smug and tried so hard to sound smart- having the chance to speak their minds about their believes or non-believes. Most probably because being smug or trying to sound smart is pretty human. Nobody in their most rational thinking wanting to sound stupid – preferably not by patronizing other people.

    I think every human being are constantly craving for “the sense of being right; in order, in a situation more acceptable or whatsoever” without even noticing it and yes it can be really painful to have to deal with all that. We can all be smug, at some level.

    I too enjoyed reading this blog 😀 hoping to read more. Cheers.

  5. stinkyayang ⋅

    vat a cunning linguist ve have here innit

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