The Grammarphobia Blog

Between Barack and a hard case

Q: I worked for Barack. I voted for him. I believe in him. And it hurts me when he says “for Michelle and I.” The English language needs all the help it can get. Where are the Object of the Preposition Police when we need them?

A: I’m as disappointed as you are that our soon to be 44th president – along with the 43rd and the 42nd – says things like “for Michelle [or Laura, or Hillary] and I.”

They should all follow the example set by the 41st and the 40th, who never failed to say “Barbara and me” or “Nancy and me” when appropriate!

I think there’s some kind of pronoun virus going around – perhaps it affects even highly educated people once they set foot in our nation’s capital. I’ve written about this problem before on the blog. Here’s one posting and here’s another.

Once more, this is the law of the land: The pronoun “I” is a subject and the pronoun “me” is an object. The object (“me”) is the one that goes with a preposition, a positioning word like “for” or “with” or “to.”

No one ever messes this up when a pronoun appears alone with a preposition. You never hear sentences like “He did it for I” or “She went with I” or “They promised it to I.”

But common sense isn’t so common these days when a pronoun appears in tandem with someone’s name. So we end up with monstrosities like “He did it for Michelle and I” or “She went with Laura and I” or “They promised it to Hillary and I.”

For anyone who messes this up, the solution is simple. Just mentally block out the name (“Michelle” or “Laura” or “Hillary”) and you’ll get the correct pronoun (“me”).

So the next time our future president has cause to mention himself along with his wife, he should mentally eliminate his wife (sorry about that, Michelle). Then he’ll properly say “for Michelle and me” or “with Michelle and me” or “to Michelle and me.”

Update: Since this item was written, Stewart and I wrote an Op-Ed piece for the New York Times on the subject, with more information about the complicated history of the “I”-vs.”me” phenomenon. Click here to read it.

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