The Grammarphobia Blog

It’s got to be me

Q: Which is correct: “I am free to be I” or “I am free to be me”?

A: Traditionally, the pronoun “I” should follow the verb “be” in the present, past, future, and other tenses, as in “It is I,” or “The lottery winner was I,” or “The next mayor will be I.” But the pronoun “me” should follow the verb “be” when it’s an infinitive – that is, “to be.”

In answer to your question, the correct sentence is “I am free to be me.” So, Sammy Davis Jr. was right when he sang “I’ve Got to Be Me.” And Marlo Thomas got it right when she wrote Free to Be … You and Me.

I should mention that language is a living thing, and the traditional view of “I” and “me” is loosening. In all but the most formal writing, it’s now OK to say “It’s me” or “The lottery winner was me” or “The next mayor will be me.” But you’re still NOT free to be I.

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