If you are reading this thinking, “The title is wrong” that it should be, “You and I“, then this is precisely for you!
Note that the picture I have used (under Fair Use) is from a 70s-80s TV program that was on the BBC. It was called “You and Me“.
In fact in the titles theme tune song to that programme they use this phrase both ways around: “You and Me, Me and You…”
A week or so ago I saw an album or concert tour entitled “You and I“.
The singer in question is not English, so this mistake can sort of be forgiven. Nevertheless, I commented that it should be “You and me”, and someone replied,
“you and I” means “we”; “you and me” means “us”. (sic)
I assume they thought that they were correcting me, but they have only proved the point. A native speaker would never say “
we” on its own, but might say, “us”.
For example, someone might share a romantic picture of herself with her boyfriend and write on it “Us“. They would never write “
But is is not only foreigners who make the mistake. Native English speakers seem to make it quite often, and more so these days. Only last Sunday I heard two native English people, independently, use “You and I” incorrectly while speaking publicly to audiences online.
What is the reason for this mistake?
It strikes me as trying to be correct but getting it stunningly wrong, which is perhaps why it irritates me so much. (There’s a similar mistake people seem to have started to make with “who” and “whom”, for the same reason but maybe that’s for another blog.)
I think it comes from the fact that, as children, we would often put ourselves first.
For example, imagine being asked by a teacher what you did at the weekend.
You might reply,
I and my brother went to a birthday party.”
I and Joe played computer games.”
Or, in fact perhaps more likely,
Me and my brother went to a birthday party.”
Me and Joe played computer games.”
In either case, the teacher would inevitably correct us:
“You should say ‘My brother and I…‘”
“It is ‘Joe and I…‘”.
I think this has led many people to naturally think that whenever you refer to yourself with others in a sentence you should always use “I” at the end.
But this is only half the story.
Notice that in both cases, the phrase ending with “I” (e.g. “Joe and I”) is acting as the subject of the sentence. It precedes a verb.
“I” is the subjective pronoun of the first person, while “Me” is the object form. So wherever you use such a phrase as an object (i.e. on its own, or after a verb) you should use “Me“:
– “Who went to the party?”
– “My brother and me.”
– “Who played computer games?”
– “Joe and me.”
Of course, in both these examples, you could respond with a full sentence, repeating the verb that is in the question, or with a modal verb (did), in which case you would use “I”:
– “Who played computer games?”
– “Joe and I played (computer games).”
– “Joe and I did.”
Because of this, using “Joe and I” to answer these questions does not sound so awkward, and could be considered correct in this case.
However, there are times where the phrase is clearly the subject and cannot be anything other than the subject.
If you want to say, “This car belongs to my wife and me.”
You cannot say, “
This car belongs to my wife and I.”
Likewise, “We” is a subject pronoun, and “Us” is the object pronoun, which is why the person who tried to “correct” my comment was only proving my point:
“This car belongs to us.”
This car belongs to we.”
So, there are a couple of simple tests you can use to work out when to use “You and I” and when to use “You and me“. (At least, these should be simple for native English speakers; it might be harder if English is not your first language).
The first test is:
If you remove the other person(s), or noun(s) from the phrase, would you use “I” or “me” (or “my”, etc) for the first person in the phrase?
Q: “Who played computer games?”
Me did” (wrong!)
– “I did”
This car belongs to I” (wrong!)
“This car belongs to me”.
The second test, as my comment replying friend pointed out, is that you could replace the phrase with “we” or “us” and work out which fits. If it is “we”, then use “You and I”; if it is “us”, use “you and me”:
A picture of we” (wrong).
“A picture of us”.
So use, “You and me”: “Here is a picture of you and me.”
Us are going to the cinema” (wrong).
“We are going to the cinema”.
So use, “You and I”: “You and I are going to the cinema.”
Those are a couple of simple tricks that you can use in many circumstances, including for when to use he/she, his/her, etc.
I hope this is helpful to at least one person!
Maybe some native English speakers will read this too and realise a mistake they have been making for years.