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  • Writer's pictureSL Eastwood

I, Me, Who…m? Understanding the difference

Image by RobinHiggins on Pixabay

People are often confounded by the use of I, me, who and whom. When are they correct, when aren’t they? It does seem confusing. Some people know but they can’t seem to explain what the difference is (even when they have corrected you for the fiftieth time).

As Jake Peralta famously laments in Brooklyn 99…

“Why does the word ‘who’ even exist if you’re not allowed to say it?!”

It’s so frustrating, but once you learn the magic trick it’s such a facepalm moment that you’ll probably laugh. What is the difference between these such similar pronouns?

‘I’ and ‘who’ are subject pronouns and ‘Me’ and ‘whom’ are object pronouns. It’s that simple.

Image by PublicDomainPictures at Pixabay

I understand that might not have made things any clearer. That’s because ‘subject’ vs ‘object’ is one of those differences where it almost feels like a technicality.

The difference isn’t especially apparent or easy to ascertain based on context. That’s why there are so many people who know which word to use in which context but can’t actually explain why they know… they just do.

For anyone who doesn’t know, in English you can either be the ‘subject’ of a sentence or the ‘object’ of one. If you are the ‘subject’ you are the thing acting upon something else, if you are the ‘object’ you are the thing being acted upon.

Subject: I got the tickets from Joe.
Object: Joe gave me the tickets.
Subject: Who got the tickets from Joe?
Object: Joe gave whom the tickets?

An easy way to remember this is that ‘object’ pronouns will often contain an ‘m’ in the spelling. So, if you are uncertain which one is correct, then ask “am I the one being acted upon?” and does the word contain an ‘m’?

There is a common misunderstanding that the phrase “so-and-so and me is never correct and that phrasing is always “so-and-so and I but this isn’t true. If you and so-and-so are being acted upon then you would be a ‘me’ not an ‘I’.

An easy way to work this out is to remove the other person from the sentence and see how you would phrase it. If in the sentence you would still be an ‘I’ then “so-and-so and I” is correct. If in the sentence you would be a ‘me’ then the correct phrasing is “so-and-so and me”.

I hope this article helped you understand the difference. Now you can be one of those unbearable pedants who corrects everyone’s grammar.

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