Deconstructing You and Me… Or Is It I?

Have you ever used the phrase “Between you and I”? How about “Between you and me”? Which one do you think is right?

If you said the latter, then you are correct. If you said the former, then please read on.

A common hypercorrection [see bottom] is to use the pronoun I at all times when talking about oneself and someone else. Examples:

You and I are talking about grammar.”

“It has always been between him and I.”

“Leave she and I alone, please.”

Just like with any other pronouns, coordinated noun phrases are inflected based on what position they take in the sentence (e.g. if they are objects or subjects). The foolproof way to check if a coordinated noun phrase should be nominative or objective is to replace the coordinated noun phrase (X and I/me) with the appropriate personal pronoun in the plural (we, us, our/ours) or check which case it gets with just the 1st person singular (I, me, my/mine).

  • I & we is nominative and is the subject (replaces X and I)
  • me & us is objective and is the object (replaces X and me)
  • my/mine & our/ours is possessive (this is a little more complicated and will have to wait for another article)

Let’s check this with a few sentences (excuse me while I abuse Glee for these examples; they happen to have a lot of both good and bad examples, and I already had this data set lying around):

“It’s got everything that both you and I love.” — Rachel Berry, season 2, episode 4.

Modified: “It’s got everything that I love.” ORIt’s got everything that we love.”

Looking good, right? “You and I” are the the subjects, because “You and I” are doing the loving.

“He and I are singing a duet together.” — Kurt Hummel, season 2, episode 4.

Modified: “We are singing a duet together.”

Totally works. “He and I” are the subjects, as they are doing the singing.

“You’re probably not gonna beat Finn and I.” — Rachel Berry, season 2, episode 4.

Modified: “You’re probably not gonna beat I.” ORYou’re probably not gonna beat we.” 

I hope this sentence makes you think this is not quite right (aside from the fact that I’ve colored it red). Both options are horrendous, right? This is a typical case of hypercorrection by using the nominative case instead of the objective. “You” is the thing doing the beating, and “Finn and I” are the things getting beaten.

“I thought you and me were an item.” — Noah Puckerman, season 2, episode 15.

Modified: “I thought us were an item.” 

Again, this doesn’t work. “I” is the thing doing the thinking, and “you and I” are the things being thought about.

“Nothing is going on between Sam and I.” — Quinn Fabray, season 2, episode 19.

Modified: “Nothing is going on between we.”

This is probably the most common mistake out there in coordinated noun phrases. A lot of people are under the impression that it should always be “between X and I.” However, when you test the sentence to see if it’s nominative or objective, you will quickly see that the nominative doesn’t work. “Nothing” is the thing going on, and “Sam and me” are the things nothing is going on between.

As I watched the entire season 2 of Glee, I counted 71 cases of X and I and 15 cases of X and me. Out of the total of 71 X and Is, only 9 were in the incorrect case. This is why hypercorrection happens; X and I is much more common than X and me and is most of the time used correctly, so to be safe, people start using the former all the time. Though of course that doesn’t mean you should!


Lexicon:

  • Hypercorrection: when people over-use what they think is a grammar rule. In this case, the use of “me” is believed to be incorrect and is therefore replaced with “I.”
  • Coordinated noun phrase: two pronouns joined together (you and I, she or he, us and them)
  • Subject: the thing that’s doing something.
  • Object: the thing that’s having something done to it.
    • For instance, in “I want him,” I is the subject and him is the object.
  • Nominative: the case of the subject of a sentence (for pronouns: I, you, she, we, etc.)
  • Objective: the case of the object of a sentence (for pronouns: me, you, her, us, etc.).

Rags recently completed a BA degree in English from a university in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. For her final thesis, she researched common breaches of prescriptive grammar on American TV. She does not sit around on Saturday nights counting grammar mistakes on teen dramas for fun.

One Response to Deconstructing You and Me… Or Is It I?

  1. Pingback: Deconstructing You and Me… Or Is It I? | Editing & More

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