Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I Versus Me; Us Versus We

People often confuse personal pronoun forms when writing sentences more complicated than, “I see you.” Without knowing what function they perform, you can’t know which case fits. See this table of cases for a list of which pronouns act as subjects and which are objects.

Now that you have that firmly in mind (or have a pretty good idea without looking), let’s take on some sentences with more complicated subjects and objects. Remembering that “me” and “us” are used as objects, you could write the following.

Julie and I are meeting the others at the mall.
Will you pick up Shelly and me by four o’clock?

We bloggers create demand for each other.
Traffic comes to us bloggers from other blogs.

To remember which pronoun fits your sentence, write it without the extraneous explanation. Would you write, “Pick up I”? Certainly, you would not, because you only use “I” and “we” as subjects. “I” am not the object of someone else’s action!

When using “we” and “us” with a noun—usually a group or category of people although this can get more complex when adjectives and other modifiers are thrown into the mix—decide which case fits by narrowing the sentence down to the subject and the verb. If your pronoun is neither of these then use “us”.

I see writers (and hear speakers) that use “I” as an object when they are trying to sound formal. While “me” does sound more informal and often takes the place of “I” in casual conversation (whether it raises my eyebrows or not), “I” is not simply a fancy version of “me”. Thus substituting the subjective case for the objective in sentences like, “Reports made to the Board of Directors and I…” gives the impression that you don’t know what the heck you’re talking about. That’s rather the opposite of your intention, isn’t it?

It behooves you to get your pronouns right, whether you are addressing a shareholders’ meeting or blogging about your newest affiliate program. If you want people to take you seriously, you have to take language seriously.


Dick Hawley


Sounds great. But, unless you are from British, Canadian, Australian or Indian, schooling, the commas should always (in American usage) be within the quotation marks.Likewise, periods.