Although these two are written and pronounced completely differently, “I” and “me” are often used interchangeably or used in the wrong context.
A common mistake in people’s writing is to confuse I and me with each other. Both are personal pronouns, but they serve different purposes within the sentence.
In many circles, this can be a costly mistake, as it’s usually considered a sign of sloppy writing. In other words, if you are writing a research paper, a press release, a resume, etc., you will want to know how to use I vs. me.
In this post, I will cover everything you need to know about these two words, and once you’re done reading, you won’t have any trouble determining when to use me or I.
The grammar rule is that you should use “I” when the word you are using is the subject of the sentence and you should use “me” when the word is the object of the sentence. However, if you never had to diagram a sentence, remembering the difference between the subject and object may be a challenge.
What is the difference between I and Me?
Me and I are pronouns for oneself just like He and Him, though there are obvious differences. I is to be used when the sentence talks about oneself as a subject. Me is to be used when oneself is referred to as an object in the sentence.
In standard English, it’s grammatically correct to say ‘between you and me’ and incorrect to say ‘between you and I’. The reason for this is that a preposition such as between should be followed by an objective pronoun (such as me, him, her, and us) rather than a subjective pronoun (such as I, he, she, and we).
Let’s uncover the main difference between them and the correct ways to use these words!
I vs. Me
The main difference between “me” and “I” is very easy to remember, as it simply refers to the pronoun type. More exactly, “I” is always used as a subject, while “me” is used as an object. This small and simple difference actually dictates in which situations you should use each. Let’s take a closer look at these situations!
When do we use “I”?
As “I” represents a subject, it is therefore used to indicate the person who performs an action, the subject of a sentence or phrase:
Example 1: I went to the theatre with Chuck.
Example 2: Chuck and I went to the theatre.
In both cases, the word “I” is referring to the person who performed the action, who went to a certain place and therefore is the subject of the message.
When do we use “me”?
“Me” is used as the direct or indirect object in a sentence and is always used to express the object of the message. A good trick to remember whether you should use “me” in a phrase would be to ask the question “to whom?”, or “for who”? If “me” answers any of these questions, then it is certainly an object and should be used in the sentence.
Example 1: Casey gave Sarah and me tickets to his show. – Here, “me” refers to the person who received something. The question you might ask is “Whom has Casey given his tickets to?”. The answer would not be: Casey gave I a ticket.
Example 2: This gift is for me. – answering the question “for who?”, “me” is used correctly in this context as it expresses the object who receives something.
Example 3: She told me to go away. – Again, answering the question “Whom?”, the object “me” supports the action of the verb.
How to Remember the Difference
It is usually easy to tell when you should use “I” or “me.” Confusion can occur, however, when one of these pronouns is grouped with another noun. Take the following sentence, for example:
The officer was looking at Jim and I.
To determine if the usage of “I” is correct, all you have to do is take out “Jim” to isolate the first-person pronoun:
The officer was looking at I.
This is not correct because “I” is not an object pronoun. Because the person is the object of the officer’s gaze, we must use the object pronoun “me.”
The same principle applies to other examples where first-person pronouns are paired or grouped with other nouns:
Bill and me are excited to go to the concert.
Once we remove “Bill” from this sentence, we see that the use of “me” is incorrect.
It’s important to remember that when a pronoun is the object of a preposition, you must use an object pronoun. Many people make the mistake of writing “between you and I” when they should write “between you and me.” Grammarist Mignon Fogarty says the former is a common example of hypercorrection, the result of people trying too hard to write correctly and using grammatical rules in places where they don’t apply.
“I” and “Me” After Forms of the Verb “Be”
In Early Modern English—the language spoken by Shakespeare and others—”I” and “me” were sometimes used interchangeably after the verb “be.” One example, as scholars John Algeo and Thomas Pyles point out, occurs in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” where the character Sir Andrew Aguecheek says, “That’s mee I warrant you…I knew ’twas I.”
“That’s me” uses the object pronoun “me,” while “‘twas I” uses the subject pronoun “I.” Both statements, however, are versions of the same syntactical construction: That/it is/was me/I. Strict grammarians insist that the verb “to be” must be followed by a subject pronoun; however, the object pronoun “me” is frequently used in standard English. While “It is I” is usually technically correct, you are more likely to hear the expression “It’s me.” The latter is grammatically correct, however, when the pronoun is followed by a relative clause that identifies the pronoun as the object of an action. For example:
It’s me who was really hurt by your reckless behavior.
“Me” is correct in this instance because it is the object of the verb “hurt.”
If you are able to make the distinction between the subject and the object of a sentence, you should be equipped to understand whether you should use “I” or “me”. Remember the examples discussed above and you won’t be confused anymore.