My initial plan was to treat may and might today – being two other important modal verbs, But I had to change the plan based on two related questions/requests that I received from some readers.
They want to know which is correct between you and I and you and me. I guess that we can quickly deal with this because many other people are confused over the correct usage of the expressions. Yet, I want to compound the question before we get the solution.
Why do we say you and I and not I and you; and why you and me instead of me and you? In other words, which of the following statements do you consider incorrect?
I and John attended the school.
John and I attended the school.
Me and John attended the school.
John and me attended the school.
I and you will go there tomorrow.
You and I will go there tomorrow.
He wants to see me and you.
He wants to see you and me.
Others first, self last
Unlike a language, such as Yoruba, which has specific grammatical elements to indicate respect for elders, English does not really differentiate between ages. For instance, Yoruba has o as a pronoun for a young person or one’s mate and won for an elder:
O ti lo (He has gone – for one’s mate or younger fellow.)
Won ti lo (He has gone – for an elder.)
But, in English, it is the he you use to refer to a male child that you use to identify his father – just as she and you remain constant. The English people, however, accommodates politeness and they demonstrate this with some grammatical choices or rules.
One of such is that in phrases where the speaker and other people are doing something or receiving the action, others should come first, followed by the speaker or writer:
I and Wizkid entered the hall at the same time (Wrong)
Wizkid and I entered the hall at the same time (Correct)
They clapped for me and Wizkid (Wrong)
They clapped for Wizkid and me. (Correct)
The governor abused me and you. (Wrong)
The governor abused you and me. (Correct)
In all the correct sentences, we accord the other people the first mention to show politeness. If you thus go back to the opening eight clauses that I asked you to study, you should be able to explain why numbers 1, 3, 5 and 7 are not right. Instead, it is numbers 2, 4, 6 and 8 that are correct.
I and John attended the school. (Wrong)
John and I attended the school. (Correct)
Me and John attended the school. (Wrong)
John and me attended the school. (Correct)
I and you will go there tomorrow. (Wrong)
You and I will go there tomorrow. (Correct)
He wants to see me and you. (Wrong)
He wants to see you and me. (Correct)
You and …
A lot of people do mix up you and I and you and me. Let me first note that both are correct and they are allowed in standard English – unlike between you and me and between you and I where the latter is wrong.
Remember, we dedicated a lesson to between you and me versus between you and I last year and I noted that the correct expression is between you and me because, in English, it is the objective pronoun that normally follows between.
Back to you and I and you and me, both are acceptable, but they are used in different contexts. If you use one where you are supposed to use the other, you would be wrong. The basic point is that while you and I is used as the subject of a clause, you and me is chosen for the objective position. I hope you remember that the subject of a clause is the doer of the action, while the object is the receiver:
John killed a snake. (‘John’ is the subject while ‘snake’ is the object.)
You saw me. (‘You’ is the subject, ‘me’ the object.)
You and I must go there. (Correct)
You and me must go there. (Wrong)
You and I watched the match. (Correct)
You and me watched the match. (Wrong)
They abused you and me. (Correct)
They abused you and I. (Wrong)
The success of the programme depends on you and me. (Correct)
The success of the programme depends on you and I. (Wrong)
Whenever you get confused as to whether you should use you and I or you and me, break the compound subject or object down and see whether I or me will work:
They congratulated you.
They congratulated me.
They congratulated I. (Wrong)
They congratulated you and me. (Correct)
They congratulated you and I. (Wrong)
You washed the car.
I washed the car.
Me washed the car. (Wrong)
You and I washed the car. (Correct)
You and me washed the car. (Wrong)