Is It I or Me? Which Pronoun to Use When

Welcome to Amazing Words Wednesday when we enter the labyrinth of language and see what we can find. Today I’ve got my grammar hat on.

I don’t really own one of those, but I should. Because I want to talk about pronouns. When do you use the pronouns I, he, she, we, they and when do you use me, him, her, us, them?

Remember in school when students used to speak up in class and say things like, “Me and you can do the project,” and the teacher would interrupt with “You and I“? It got to the point where it seemed like it was never “you and me” and always “you and I.”

It’s not.

So let’s talk about when you should use I and when you should use me.

Linking verb. “It is I!” Yes, believe or not, that is correct. Long before cell phones and even caller ID, we used to get phone calls at the house and someone might ask, “May I speak to Julie?” I would answer, “This is she.” The reaction I got from the boy calling indicated whether I should keep dating him or relegate him to the wouldn’t-know-good-grammar-if-it-slapped-him discard pile. (Just kidding.)

Honestly, it does sound a little weird because we’re used to hearing “It is me” and “This is her.” But a sentence with a linking verb is like the symmetric property in math: If A = B, then B = A. Since there is no action verb, the linking verb functions like an equal sign. So if “She is this,” then “This is she.” We certainly wouldn’t say, “Her is this.”

When there is only a linking verb, even when the pronoun is at the end, the proper word is I, he, she, we, they. So it’s “What a jerk is he!” and “The coolest girls are we!”

Cheerleaders in pyramid
“The coolest girls are we!”

And since that sounds weird, you could always change up the order of the words or the sentence to flow better, like “What a jerk he is!” and “We are the coolest girls!”

Comparison. “The tree is taller than we.” “Everyone is better dressed than he.” “No one is as happy as I.” Why do these comparisons call for the subjective pronoun (I, he, she, we, they)?

Because the final verb is not stated, but rather implied. If you really finished the sentences, they would be “The tree is taller than we are.” “Everyone is better dressed than he is.” “No one is as happy as I am.” You certainly wouldn’t say, “The tree is taller than us are.”

Tree trunk
“The tree is taller than we.”

Direct object. Flashback grammar lesson! (Stop groaning in the back row there.) A direct object is the object at which the action is directed. Since I know that didn’t clear it up, here are some examples:

Hunger makes my stomach growl. “My stomach” is the direct object of “makes.”

My stomach wants breakfast. “Breakfast” receives the action of “wants.”

For breakfast, I eat bacon. “Bacon” is the object of the action “eat.”

Bacon makes me fat. “Me” is what gets fat when I eat too much bacon.

Get it?

Direct objects are only present with action verbs because they receive the action. And they are always me, him, her, us, and them. The alternatives of I, he, she, we, and they are actors, not receivers, of action in a sentence; they are the ones that do things. Me, him, her, us, and they are acted upon. So if the action is directed at a pronoun, make sure you use me, him, her, us, and they:

He kissed me.

I kissed him.

Kisses? I like them.

Kissing thrills us.

Couple kissing
“Kissing thrills us.”

Object of a preposition. A preposition is a word that expresses spatial, temporal, or other relationship, such as with, in, around, for, below, under, during, etc. When the pronoun is the object of a preposition, it’s me, him, her, us, them. Example: “Joe went to the store with Anna and me.”

If you’re unsure, you can easily tell by removing the other object of the preposition (in this example, “Anna”): “Joe went to the store with me.” It’s obviously “me” in this situation, but it might be less obvious with a longer sentence and an additional object in the mix. If you’re not sure, try it out with each pronoun and you’ll likely hear what you need to do.

Julie with "you and me" caption
Julie finished a grammar post with you and me.

When you’re not sure what the proper pronoun should, shift things around in the sentence and try out different forms. It might help you to determine the appropriate choice.

Or just check back here for these tips!

Have you struggled with pronoun usage? Do you have any sentences from your writing you want to check with me?

And if you’re looking for extensive copy editing, click on the tab above. I’d be happy to consult with you about your project.

Challenges and Changes with the New Year

New YearA New Year is a perfect time to reevaluate where you are and where you want to be. Although really, I’ve been analyzing how I use my time and what I want to accomplish for several months. Sometime in the fall, I concluded that a few changes were warranted.

Here they are.

Blog. I love blogging. I didn’t know if I would, but it’s been a fabulous activity for me to hone my writing and, more importantly, to connect with, inform, and entertain readers. For quite a while, I’ve blogged three times a week–Sunday ROW80 updates, Amazing Words Wednesdays, and Deep-Fried Fridays. I will be taking that down to twice a week.

My Wednesday posts about the labyrinth of language (aka A-maze-ing Words Wednesday) will continue, and my Sunday posts will be devoted to sharing whatever I’ve learned and want to share. In keeping with the labyrinth theme, these will be Scarlet Thread Sundays. This is my last Deep-Fried Friday post.

copy editingCopy Editing. I’m a rare individual who enjoys–nay, delights!–in proofreading for people. It’s not that I’m some sick individual who wants to red pen all over perfectly good pages. To me, line editing, copy editing, proofreading are putting the polish on a finished product–making it shine. I revel in knowing that the read will be easier and flow better with proper word choice, grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. The story itself will come through and not be hindered by avoidable errors.

Consequently, my copy editing services are now for hire. If you are interested, click on the Copy Editing tab on the menu above for more information.

ROW80LogocopyROW80. I will once again be participating in A Round of Words in 80 Days. I still love this challenge from Kait Nolan for its focus, flexibility, accountability, and encouragement. Indeed, I have been a sponsor for several rounds now.

Although I will be continuing my own ROW80 challenge, I am stepping away from sponsorship this time. If you are interested in being a cheerleader for this worthy writers’ experience, head over to the ROW80 website and see about signing up as a future sponsor.

Self-publishing. This year I will be pursuing the traditional publishing route for my YA contemporary novel, Sharing Hunter. However, I plan to self-publish my first mystery, Grace & Fire, in 2013.

There are two sequels already plotted for this mystery trilogy, and it is my desire to write them as well and release all three in 2013 if I can. I have previously stated that, of all the routes now open to writers, the one of hybrid author–both self and traditionally published–appeals to me most.

What changes do you expect to make in 2013? How do you wish to redirect your focus? What are your most important goals for the new year?