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Friday, January 2, 2015

I and me. Jonathan Holmes' grammatical hate-list article provides excellent examples of when to use I and me.

I find articles like Jonathan's (link provided below) to be very informative. Often when writers are being critical, or as they say pedantic, we are provided with some excellent examples of good and bad usage of our language.

www.smh.com.au/comment/jonathan-holmes-grammatical-hatelist-20141230-12f3do.html

In this case I was particularly interested in the examples of the use of I and me. Jonathan's tip provides an excellent way to decide when it is appropriate to use me. I don't know about you, but certainly I've heard many times over the years that it is not me but I that should be used. After a while you start to use I all the time as that seems to be the correct usage. Jonathan's article however provides a good number of examples and then illustrates that all the examples should have used me or us.

The trick he explains is to drop the second person and then see if the sentence still makes sense if you use me.

Those who follow my work will know my only claim to literary expertise, is to identify the preferred Australian spelling when we are presented with multiple spelling variations. In this area I can be pedantic. In Jonathan's article he uses the spelling spelled instead of spelt.

The problem I find when reading articles both online and offline, is if I see the spelling spelled, this often raises a red flag for me, that I may be reading an article that has been republished from American sources and the content of the article may not always be relevant to Australia.

To put what I've learnt from Jonathan's article I hope I'm correct in the following usage.

I can now see that if I write "Sue asked my wife and I to dinner", that I'm not using I correctly. How do I know? If I change the sentence to "Sue asked me to dinner" that sounds better than "Sue asked I to dinner". Thus the correct usage should be "Sue asked my wife and me to dinner".

I can now also see if I write "My wife and I went to Sue's for dinner" is correct usage, because if I write "Me went to Sue's for dinner" it doesn't sound correct.

The trick of dropping the second person from the sentence helps to determine if you're using I or me correctly.

Now of course this does mean I have to assume that what Jonathan has shared is correct and we shouldn't always make that assumption. As a pedant Jonathan should be as pedantic on the usage of spelled and spelt but isn't, so we should now look for additional authoritative resources to ensure what we have learnt is correct.

In this case I first checked the Macquarie Dictionary site but couldn't find anything quickly. I then used Google and found the British Oxford site which I consider authoritative for such purposes. You can see the Oxford shares the same tip (www.oxforddictionaries.com/words/i-or-me).

I don't know about others, but for me, my interest in the preferred spelling often leads me to learn more about our language gradually improving my skills. Today I learnt a little more about the use of the pronouns I and me. I hope that you've also enjoyed sharing this journey with me.

Kelvin Eldridge
www.Australian-Dictionary.com.au
The preferred Australian English spelling.


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