“I” and “me” are subject pronouns that we use to reference ourselves. The difference is that “I” is a subject pronoun while “me” is an object pronoun.
What is the difference between I and me?
“I” and “me” are easily two of the most important pronouns English speakers use to communicate with other people. We use “I” and “me” as singular, first-person pronouns to reference ourselves, but we generally don’t use these terms interchangeably.
The main difference between the two pronouns is that “I” is a subject pronoun, while “me” is an object pronoun. For example,
- “I enjoy writing about English grammar.”
- “Writing is fun for me.”
Did you notice how either pronoun is placed on one side of the verb? That’s because “I” is the subject of the verb, but the verb acts on the object, “me.”
What does I mean?
“I” is a singular subject pronoun, meaning it references oneself as a speaker or writer (first-person narration). As a subjective pronoun, “I” needs to be the subject of a verb in a sentence. For example,
- “I ran four miles yesterday.”
- “Then I ate too many ice cream sandwiches.”
- “I sleep every night.”
What does me mean?
“Me” is an object pronoun that also references oneself as a narrator. However, a writer or speaker uses “me” instead of “I” when they are the direct object of a sentence verb or preposition. For example,
- “My sister gave me a present.”
- “They walked home with me.”
- “You can leave before me.”
Where do the words I and me come from?
“I” is the Middle English version of ic (Old English). The pronoun is related to Dutch ik, German ich, and Old High German ih through an Indo-European root that traces back to Latin ego and Greek egō.
The pronoun “me” is another Middle English rendition of Old English, where mē was the accusative and dative case of “I.” “Me” also shares an Indo-European root with Latin me and Greek (e)me, although Lexico notes an additional relation to Sanskrit mā.
Grammar guide for using I vs. me in a sentence
Learning the difference between I and me is more challenging if you don’t understand the function of objective, subjective, or reflexive pronouns. Whether you’re new to the English Language or a native speaker, there are foundational topics and rules to learn before understanding why we use “I” and “me” in specific ways. Let’s take a look:
What is a subjective pronoun?
Subjective pronouns reference the subject of a sentence and include personal pronouns like:
- Singular: I, you, she, he, they (gender-neutral), it.
- Plural: You, we, they.
Subject pronouns come before a verb in a sentence because they are the person or thing taking action. For example,
- “I want to eat.” (“I” is the subject of the verb “want.”)
- “She ran away.” (“She” is the subject of the verb “ran”).
- “They walked to the store.” (“They” is the subject of the verb “walked”).
What is an objective pronoun?
Objective pronouns receive the action of the verb in a sentence. Examples of objective pronouns include:
- Singular: Me, you, her, him, them (gender-neutral), it.
- Plural: You, us, them.
Objective pronouns function to replace a noun or object, so they always occur after the verb. For example,
- “Can she teach me how to write?” (“Me” is the object of the verb “teach.”)
- “She drove them to the store.” (“Them” is the object of the verb “drove.”)
- “They brought us food.” (“Us” is the object of the verb “brought.”)
What is a reflexive pronoun?
Reflexive pronouns assist verb objects by re-referencing the original subject of the verb. Examples of reflexive pronouns include:
- Singular: Myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself.
- Plural: Ourselves, yourselves, themselves.
In general, it’s best only to use reflexive pronouns when the object and subject of a verb are the same. For example,
- “I sang myself to sleep.” (“Myself” references “I,” the subject of “sang.”)
- “He spilled the drink on himself.” (“Himself” references “he,” the subject of “spilled.”)
- “They only think of themselves.” (“Themselves” references “they,” the subject of “think.”)
Grammatical rules for me, myself, and I?
To use the pronouns “me,” “myself,” and “I,” all we need to do is apply rules for subjective, reflexive, and objective pronouns:
Rules for “I”
The subjective pronoun “I” needs to be the subject of a verb. Therefore, the pronoun should appear before the verb.
Sentence examples with “I” after the verb:
- “John and I subscribe to Grammar Police Magazine.”
- “But sometimes, I order magazines with someone else.”
- “I love to read about proper grammar.”
Rules for “me”
The objective pronoun “me” needs to be the object of a verb (receives the action). Therefore, write “me” after the verb, including phrases like “who, me?” and “me too.”
Sentence examples with “me” after the verb:
- “Can you teach me about commas and predicates?”
- “He sent me a book about English grammar.”
- “Show me the correct way to write a sentence.”
In addition to following verbs, “me” can be the object of the preposition or conjunction. For reference:
- Prepositions are nouns or pronouns that express what, when, where, and how? Common examples include: with, at, from, to, in, for, on, by, about, before, after, but, off, on.
- Conjunctions connect clauses, words, and phrases, such as: and, but, or, although, because, however, so, unless, yet.
Sentence examples with “me” after a preposition or conjunction:
- “Not every grammarian will agree with me.”
- “He received a book from me.”
- “She must choose between me or the conference.”
- “Can you send notes to John and me?”
Rules for “myself”
Use the reflexive pronoun “myself” when the sentence subject and object are the same (I and me). As with subjective or objective pronouns, reflexive pronouns also occur after the verb.
Sentence examples with “myself” after the verb:
- “I write for myself.”
- “I will write myself a note.”
- “Every year, I buy myself a new notebook.”
FAQ: Commonly confused phrases of me, myself, and I
Should I write “It is I” or “It is me?”
According to the American Heritage Dictionary (AHD), traditional English grammar requires the nominative form of I to follow the verb “be.” However, English speakers began replacing “I” with “me” in the 16th century, so the modern argument of what’s “standard” largely depends on formality:
- For formal writing, use the phrase “it is I.”
- For casual settings, you can write “it’s me” or “it is me.”
Is it “between you and I” or “between you and me?”
Most English speakers are guilty of using “between you and I” when trying to sound smart. But in a sad and ironic twist, AHD writes how the phrasing is a “mark of ignorance” that is “best avoided in formal contexts.” Ouch.
The correct pronoun to use is “me” because it’s the object of the sentence verb. We only use “I” when it is the subject of the sentence verb.
Can I use “me” as a personal dative?
Some English vernaculars use “me” as a personal dative in statements like, “I’m going to buy me some magazines” or “I’m going to write me a note.” But is it wrong?
Using “myself” instead of “me” is necessary for formal writing, especially since the latter is technically “nonstandard English.” But if you’re writing in a casual or creative setting, where you’d write the way you speak, there are a few grammatical rules to be aware of.
First, we should avoid writing sentences like “I bought me clothes” when it is more accurate to write “I bought me some clothes.” The trick here is to include a prepositional phrase after “me” and before the indirect object (“clothes”).
Secondly, it’s imperative to use reflexive pronouns over personal datives when there’s a distinction between the narrator and someone else. For example, if someone said, “Mom gave her and Sam money,” they probably didn’t mean, “Mom gave herself and Sam money.”
Additional reading: Is vs. me
For more information on topics involving “Is vs. me,” check out The Word Counter’s lessons on subjects like:
Check your understanding of subject, object, and reflexive pronouns with the following multiple-choice quiz.
- True or false: A subjective pronoun is the object of a preposition or a verb?
- Which of the following is a subject pronoun?
- Which of the following is an object pronoun?
- Which of the following is an objective and subjective pronoun, but never a reflexive pronoun?
d. A and B
- Identify the subjective pronoun: “She loves to watch Family Feud.”
c. To watch
d. Family Feud
- Identify the objective pronoun: “We are watching him sing.”
- Choose the correct pronoun: “If you get stuck on a question, feel free to ask a nearby partner or __________ for help.”
- Identify the correct sentence or statement:
a. “Between you and me, I don’t think she’s a good fit.”
b. “It is I who led the war.”
c. “He bought him some new clothes.”
d. All of the above
- Traditional grammar argues that we should use the ____________ of ____________ after the verb “be.”
a. Object form, me
b. Subject form, me
c. Object form, I
d. Subject form, I
- “English in North America: Personal datives.” Grammatical Diversity Project, Yale University, 2020.
- “I.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th ed., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2020.
- “I.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
- “I: Origin.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
- “I or me?” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
- “Me.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th ed., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2020.
- “Me: origin.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
- “Subjective & Objective Pronouns.” Excelsior Online Writing Lab (OWL), Excelsior College, 2020. “Reflexive Pronouns.” Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL), Purdue University, 2020.