Is it I?

OK, this is a bit of a grammar gripe.

I’ve been noticing that the entire idea of when to use “I” versus “me” in a plural clause has mysteriously disappeared, and nobody seems to notice.

I’d always thought the rules were simple: When you’re the subject of a sentence, you say, for example: “I am going to the store”. And when you’re the object of a sentence, you say, for example: “This is happening to me.”

So far so good. “I” versus “me”. Everybody seems to get that right.

But throw another person into the mix, and people start to get confused. Instead of saying “Jenny and I are going to the store,” I hear people say “Jenny and me are going to the store.”

And instead of saying “This is happening to Fred and me,” I hear people say “This is happening to Fred and I.”

The whole thing sounds so strange to my ears, as though people were saying “Me is going to the store,” or “This is happening to I.”

Am I the only one left who notices this? Has the English language somehow changed while I wasn’t looking?

7 Responses to “Is it I?”

  1. sallyl says:

    Where are the people from who are saying these things? Are they non-native English speakers making translation errors?

    The street kids of New York?

    Your students?

  2. admin says:

    In the last two days in a meeting at NYU I heard a grad student say “* and I” instead of “* and me”, and I came across the same phenomenon in an interview in the NY Times. Native speakers in both cases.

    I more often hear “* and me” in place of “* and I” out on the street, whereas I more often hear/read “* and I” in place of “* and me” among the more literate and educated.

    In my experience, people who learn English as a second language are more likely to get it consistently right — the people who make the switch tend to be native speakers.

  3. Simon Evans says:

    I had the same experience a couple of years ago when I noticed people dropping the “of” from “a couple of”. When I realised that smart people were doing it and not thinking it wrong it came as quite shock. I wondered who had decided this was okay, who had started it, and when. No answers yet. It still hits my mostly-accepting-of-new-usage ears like a brick.

  4. Hitoshi says:

    There was a Simpsons episode, one of the Halloween episode. Homer made his clones, but they were less intelligent than the original one. The clone said “me do something” and Lisa asked to Bart “Did you notice that our dad becomes dumber?” and Bart said “Me notice not”…

  5. Alec says:

    I couldn’t quite get a convincing result for your plurals, but this was interesting:
    http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=It%27s+me%2CIt%27s+I%2CIt+is+I%2CIt+is+me&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=

    Try switching to American/British English or English fiction. Watch where that crossover happens in time.

  6. admin says:

    Oddly enough, I was just now copied on an email from a colleague. Confirming a phone meeting, he said: “Tomorrow at 11AM sounds great. Will it just be you and I?”

    I am quite sure this colleague would never say “Will it just be I?”

  7. sharon says:

    Oh yeah, I’ve noticed this problem with “I” vs. “me” for many years and in many places. My theory is that people use “I” where “me” is actually correct in an attempt to sound more educated (which, obviously, is backfiring). To those people, “Jenny and me are going to the store” would be clearly wrong. And they think that “This is happening to Fred and me” would be equally wrong, so they use “Fred and I” instead.

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