I vs. Me: When to Use the Right One

Many native English speakers rely on what sounds best when it comes to tricky grammar, but unfortunately, you've probably heard this wrong so many times that relying on instinct may not help you. 

“I vs. me” can be a tricky one when it comes to proper grammar, but it doesn’t have to be. Unlike most rules in the English language, there aren’t exceptions to these, and once you’ve mastered the general concepts (with a few tricks and tips on how to remember them) you’ll never make a mistake with these pronouns again. Even though this is one of the most confusing rules in the grammar world, we promise you can master this!

“I vs. me” basic rules

The word “I” is a first-person pronoun that is used in sentences when the placement of the pronoun is the subject of the sentence. An easy way to check the subject? Is “I” the one doing the action? Take a look at these examples:

I am tired.

I run at the gym.

I like reading.

In all of these examples, “I” is the person doing something.

“Me” is also a first-person pronoun and it is used in sentences when the placement of the pronoun is the object. These examples are a bit less simplistic than those that used “I.”

The dog licked me.

That sounds good to me.

Send it to me.

In these examples, “me” is the object of the sentence, the “thing” that the subject and action are referring to. However, all of these examples seem rather obvious. Where “I vs. me” gets tricky is when you try to include someone else along with the pronoun referring to yourself. Is the phrase “you and I,” or is it “you and me”? Figuring out the subject and object of more complex sentences that include a lot of nouns is a bit more challenging, but luckily there’s a quick method to help you out, and it’s one of the little grammar rules to follow to make you sound smarter.

How to remember the difference

Peter Sokolowski, editor-at-large for Merriam-Webster, provides an excellent trick for remembering “I vs. me” in this video: “A good way to check yourself is to remove the other person.” Would you like to come to lunch with Noah and I? becomes Would you like to come to lunch with I? In this example, “your ear tells you immediately that something is wrong,” Sokolowski says in the video. So the correct sentence should be: “Would you like to come to lunch with Noah and me?” If the sentence you’re working through is still stumping you, try changing the order of persons in the sentence. A good example of this is the phrase “between you and __.” Is it I, or me? While neither may sound particularly wrong if “you” is first, native English speakers will agree that “between I and you” sounds just horrible. Because it’s wrong. It’s nearly as complicated as the difference between “if I was” and “if I were”!

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Isabel Roy
Isabel Roy is the newsletter editor at Reader’s Digest. She writes and reports on home, culture, and general interest stories. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse in 2017 with a B.A. in Rhetoric and Writing.