I or Me? When to Use Which

Summary

In general, use “I” as the subject and “me” as the object of a verb or a preposition.

Examples
  • Subject: I like to travel.
  • Object of a verb: Lulu called me this morning.
  • Object of a preposition: They believe in me.

Use “I” instead of “me” in compound subjects in formal writing, although “me” is acceptable in informal usage.

Examples
  • Formal: Anita and I are working on a new project.
  • Informal: Me and my stretch pants are ready for Thanksgiving dinner.

In compound objects, avoid the hypercorrect use of “I”; use the object pronoun “me” instead.

Example
  • Poor: They have invited Rita and I to the party.
    Preferred: They have invited Rita and me to the party.

In comparisons, “me” is the more natural choice, although some speakers prefer to use “I,” particularly in formal contexts.

Examples
  • Acceptable: He is taller than me.
    Formal: He is taller than I (am).
  • Acceptable: She is as old as me.
    Formal: She is as old as I (am).

Similarly, after the “be” verb and in anticipatory structures, “me” is preferred in most styles, with the subject pronoun “I” reserved for highly formal usage.

Examples
  • Preferred: It’s me, Anita.
    “It is I, Anita,” would rarely, if ever, be used.
  • Preferred: The one at fault is me.
    Highly formal: The one at fault is I.

I and me: Subject and object pronouns

In general, use “I” in the position of subject and “me” in the position of object in a sentence. Both “I” and “me” are pronouns that replace nouns. While “I” is a subject pronoun (like we, he, she, they), “me” is an object pronoun (like us, him, her, them).

Examples
  • Subject: Hi, I am Maya.
  • Subject: I like to read and travel.
  • Subject: I am excited about going on vacation.
  • Subject: Tumkin and I are going to Mauritius together.
  • Object: Anita wants me to call her tomorrow.
  • Object: Nesbit gave me a book to read.
  • Object: She trusts me.
  • Object: Do you believe in me?
  • Object: These cupcakes are for Rita and me.

The rule is simple enough: “I” for subject; “me” for object. But the choice between “I” and “me” can depend on whether the context is formal or informal, as well as the type of sentence in which the pronoun occurs. Moreover, it is not always clear whether what you’re referring to is the subject or the object. In this article we discuss usage guidelines and examples on when to use which: “I” or “me.”

I as subject

When you are yourself the subject of a sentence, use the first-person pronoun “I.” (The subject is the doer or the person that the sentence is about.)

Examples
  • I like chocolate.
    subject = “I”
  • I want coffee.
  • Today, I woke up at six.

Sometimes, a clause in the predicate of a sentence may contain its own subject. The subject of such a clause is still “I,” not “me.”

Examples
  • He thought I would believe him when he said he was from Mars.
    The subject of the sentence is clearly “he.” The predicate contains another clause (“I would believe him”) with its own subject, which should be “I” not “me.”
  • She hopes that I will call the professor on her behalf.
  • Poco wants to know whether I can work tomorrow.

Me as object

Use “me” to refer to yourself as the object in a sentence. (The object is the person affected by the action of a verb.)

Examples
  • Tumkin gave me a bar of Swiss chocolate.
    object of the verb gave = “me”
  • He asked me not to tell you.
  • She has known me since childhood.

Also use “me” as the object of a preposition (for, in, about, with, etc.).

Examples
  • Is all this chocolate for me?
    object of the preposition for = “me”
  • There is nothing about me you don’t know.
  • Will you come with me to the airport?
Tip

When you are both the subject and the object in a sentence, use the reflexive pronounmyself” instead of “me.”

Example
  • I bought me/myself a present.

Sometimes, a noun clause or a prepositional phrase may be the subject of a sentence. If the function of the pronoun used is that of object, use “me.”

Examples
  • Your wanting me to do something is not going to make me do it.
  • For me to believe you now is impossible.

In compound subjects

Use “I” not “me” in a compound subject. (A compound subject has two or more subjects joined using a conjunction like and.)

Examples
  • Maya and I like tea.
    “Maya likes tea” + “I like tea” = “Maya and I/me like tea.”
  • Mom and I are waiting for you.
  • Tumkin and I are friends.
  • Are you and I really to blame?
  • You or I could solve it easily.
  • Neither you nor I know what to do.

Compound subjects can be tricky: they may be hidden in the predicate of a sentence. Make sure to correctly use “I” instead of “me” as the subject of a clause.

Examples
  • He knew that Anita and I would help him.
    “He knew that Anita would help him” + “He knew that I would help him” = “He knew that Anita and I would help him.”
  • Poco believes that you and I are plotting against him.
  • Did you check if this is what Rita and I wanted?

In informal communication, speakers often use “me” in compound subjects. Avoid such usage in formal contexts.

Examples
  • Informal: You and me will always be together.
    Formal: You and I will always be together.
  • Informal: Oh, and me and Dad baked a cake for Mom.
    Formal: Father and I baked a cake for Mother.
  • Informal: Anita and me have always been close.
    Formal: Anita and I have always been close.
  • Informal: You or me would have done better.
    Formal: You or I would have done better.
Caution

Always use “I” instead of “me” as part of a compound subject in formal writing (such as a thesis, application, or cover letter).

Examples
  • Incorrect: My professor and me are going to attend a conference.
    Correct: My professor and I are going to attend a conference.
  • Incorrect: Me and my partners would like to thank our sponsors for their support.
    Correct: My partners and I would like to thank our sponsors for their support.

In compound objects

Use “me” instead of “I” in a compound object. (A compound object contains two or more objects joined by a word like and.) A compound object can complete the meaning of a verb or a preposition.

Examples
  • They have invited you and me to the party.
  • Poco expects Nesbit and me to work this weekend.
  • This book was written by Anita and me.
  • Here are some flowers from Maya and me.

The hypercorrect “I” is sometimes incorrectly used in compound objects. (Hypercorrection is an error that happens due to an attempt at correctness or formality.) Avoid such usage. Remember that “me” is preferred as the object in a sentence.

Examples
  • Hypercorrect: They called Lulu and I last night.
    “They called Lulu” + “They called me
    Preferred: They called Lulu and me last night.
  • Hypercorrect: Mom wants you and I to visit this weekend.
    Preferred: Mom wants you and me to visit this weekend.
  • Hypercorrect: This is a story about you and I and everyone else in the world.
    “This is a story about you” + “This is a story about me
    Preferred: This is a story about you and me and everyone else in the world.
  • Hypercorrect: Between you and I, I think Rita is going to win.
    Preferred: Between you and me, I think Rita is going to win.

In comparisons: Than, as, like

In comparisons using than and as, object pronouns like “me” are generally used, but some speakers prefer to use a subject pronoun like “I,” particularly in formal contexts. Either pronoun is acceptable, with “me” often the more natural choice.

Examples
  • Anita thinks she is better than me.
    Anita thinks she is better than I (am).
  • She is as old as me.
    She is as old as I (am).
  • She is taller than me.
    She is taller than I (am).

The word like is generally followed by me.

Examples
  • But she dances just like me.
  • He is a freelancer like me.
Note

Whether to use “I” or “me” in comparisons is a subject of great debate because the words than, as, and like can all be treated either as conjunctions or prepositions. The subject pronoun “I” would follow a conjunction; the object pronoun “me” would follow a preposition. In most contexts, “me” is acceptable. But note that “I” is preferred in formal usage and can also help introduce a clause with new information.

Examples
  • Acceptable: She is taller than me.
    Formal: She is taller than I was as a child.
  • Acceptable: You are just as smart as me.
    Formal: You are just as smart as I am.

After the be verb (It’s me)

After the “be” verb (is, was), “me” is generally used rather than “I.”

Examples
  • Correct: It’s me who cares about you.
  • Correct: The only one to blame is me.
  • Correct: The person who ate all the cookies is me.
  • Correct: The thief is me: I stole the cookies from the jar.
  • Correct: I can’t believe that’s me in the picture.

Strictly speaking, subject pronouns like “I” belong in the position of subject complement. But such usage can sound pretentious and is confined to highly formal contexts.

Example
  • Highly formal: The defendant is I, Your Honor.
    Be careful: the judge might just find such linguistic prescription criminal.

In sentences with an anticipatory structure as well, the pronoun used after the “be” verb is generally “me,” not “I.”

Examples
  • Correct: Growing up, it was just me and my mom, nobody else.
  • Correct: Well, looks like it’s just you and me then.

In such sentences, “it” acts as a dummy subject. Strictly speaking, the correct pronoun to use for the logical subject that follows is “I.” However, such usage is rare and seen only in highly formal contexts.

Examples
  • Highly formal: It is I who cares about you.
  • Highly formal: Growing up, it was just my mother and I, no one else.
  • Highly formal: It is just you and I then.
Tip

After the “be” verb, the strictly grammatical alternative (“It is I”) is rarely if ever used and sounds odd in both speech and writing. “Me” is the more natural choice.

Example

Examples from literature

Here are some examples from writing that show how “I” and “me” are used as the subject and object in sentences. Note how “me” serves as the object of not just verbs but also prepositions.

Examples
  • I knew you would be wishing me joy.
    Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)
  • A singular notion dawned upon me.
    Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (1847)
  • I can never bear to think of you all there without me.
    — Jane Austen, Emma (1815)

Be careful to use “I” and “me” correctly in compound subjects and objects.

Examples
  • Matthew and I have talked it over off and on ever since.
    Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables (1908)
  • Well, then, you and I will go alone, Mr. Gray.
    Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890)
  • They are going to take Diana and me to the concert.
    — Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables (1908)
  • The equality between her and me was real.
    — Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (1847)
  • I was thinking the loveliest story about you and me, Diana.
    — Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables (1908)

The following examples show how “me” instead of the strictly grammatical “I” is used in comparisons.

Examples
  • They are quite as well educated as me.
    — Jane Austen, Emma (1815)
  • It might have been a better fortune for you, if you had been fond of someone else—of someone steadier and much worthier than me.
    Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1849)
  • I was just imagining I was one of them—that I was the little girl in the blue dress, standing off by herself in the corner as if she didn’t belong to anybody, like me.
    — Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables (1908)

Finally, note how in the following sentences, “me” is the more natural choice after the “be” verb even though the strictly correct pronoun to use would be “I.”

Examples
  • It was me against my brother.
    Leon Uris, The Haj (1984)
  • Novels are what we peel off, and come at last to the core, which is only you and me.
    Virginia Woolf, The Sickle Side of the Moon (The Letters of Virginia Woolf), ed. Nigel Nicolson (1987)

She/her, he/him, they/them, we/us

Other subject and object pronouns are used much the same way as “I” and “me.” Use “she,” “he,” “they,” and “we” as the subject, and “her,” “him,” “them,” and “us” as the object in a sentence.

Examples
  • She is an architect.
  • He has the answer.
  • We invited them over for dinner.
  • They gave us a bottle of wine.
  • This chocolate is for him.

In compound subjects, subject pronouns are preferred, especially in formal contexts.

Examples
  • She and her mother are here.
  • He and I are partners.
  • They and their ideas of morality belong in the fifteenth century.

In anticipatory references, in comparisons, and as the subject complement, the object pronouns “her,” “him,” “them,” and “us” are preferred in all but the most formal usage.

Examples
  • It’s her—that’s the woman who saved my life!
  • I am older than him.
  • They are as old as us.
  • That’s him, the guy from the movie!

Quick Quiz

Which is preferred in formal writing?
Choose from these answers
All done!
Which is preferred in formal styles?
Choose from these answers
All done!
Which sounds more natural?
Choose from these answers
All done!
Which sounds more natural?
Choose from these answers
All done!

Did You Know?

Words like sir and ma’am are often not capitalized.
Know more:Are Sir, Madam (or Ma'am), and Miss Capitalized?