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Grammar Despair: Do I Say "Him and Me" or "He and I"?

At Amazon.com
At Amazon.com

 

 

If you don’t know when to use him and me or he and I, don’t feel bad. This problem is so common that I literally wrote a book around it,Grammar Despair: Quick, simple solutions to problems like, “Do I say him and me or he and I?”

 

The answer is fairly straightforward, so let’s get started (by the way, when you're done reading, check out the artwork on the site -- with everything from originals to licensed prints, there is something for every wall and budget. The painting above is called, Ending the Day on a Good Note):

 

Let’s say you’re heading to the movies with Bob and you’re not sure how to phrase this: do you say, “Me and him went to the movies,” or “He and I went to the movies,” or “Him and I went to the movies,” or “He and me went to the movies”?

 

Start by temporarily dropping off the He or Him, and see what you have left.

 

Would you say, “I went to the movies,” or “Me went to the movies”?

 

You’re right: “I went to the movies.” Remember the “I.”

 

Now, leave the “I” for a minute and look at He/Him. Would you say,  “He went to the movies,” or “Him went to the movies”?

 

Yes: “He went to the movies.”

 

So, if both you and Bob go to the movies, you will say, “He and I went to the movies.”

 

(Yes, it is also correct to say, “I and he went to the movies,” but this sounds stilted and awkward. It is not wrong, however.)

 

Okay, let’s look at another sentence:

 

Do you say, “This gift basket is for her and me,” or “This gift basket is for she and I,” or “This gift basket is for she and me,” or “This gift basket is for her and I”?

 

We’ll use the same technique of temporarily getting rid of one of the two people and focusing on the other. Let’s concentrate on I/me:

 

Do you say, “This gift basket is for I,” or “This gift basket is for me”?

 

Yes, it’s for me.

 

And do I share this basket with her or she? In other words, is it, “This gift basket is for her” or “This gift basket is for she”?

 

Yes, “This gift basket is for her.”

 

Putting it all together, you'll then say, “This gift basket is for me and her,” or “This gift basket is for her and me,” the latter which sounds a bit smoother to my ears.

 

That’s it. There aren't many magical formulas out there, but this one is as close as it gets. Whenever you’re faced with two or more people in the sentence and you don’t know whether to use he/she/they/we/I or him/her/them/us/me, figure out what sounds right, one person at a time, then put the whole thing together at the end.

 

So where do you work -- a bank, university, government office, Fortune 500 Company? People from all these places regularly visit this particular blog, with the same question that sent you here. You're not alone. But you can leave the crowd -- now -- of people who need to write but really don't know how to, by buying and reading Grammar Despair. You can also borrow the book on Amazon Prime.

 

This won't be the last time you'll be writing something and need to sound intelligent and resourceful. Grammar Despair is inexpensive, easy to read, very informative, and will make you a better writer. And believe me, in today's digital world -- you need to be a good writer.

 

The links below will take you to the paperback Grammar Despair, $8.99 and the Kindle version, $5.99 at Amazon. (You can look through the table of contents and the first part of the book for free at the Amazon site.) There is also a link to my latest book, Live Happily on Less, digital version.

 

 

23 Responses to Grammar Despair: Do I Say "Him and Me" or "He and I"?

Yvonne Branchflower
via stevehendersonfineart.com
Your article's title invited me/I to help, only to discover you didn't need any help at all! I/me cringe at the misuse of basic grammar, and hope more than a few people read your humorous lesson.

Carolyn Henderson
via stevehendersonfineart.com
Thank you, Yvonne. I know that this particular me/I and he/him issue has many people confused, and slipping in "myself" and "himself" just doesn't do the trick. I have been amazed at the number of people with PhD s in assorted subjects who declare that "This is a difficult time for he and I."

I don't necessarily think the answer is going back to parsing and diagramming sentences, but some basic grammar in the high school curriculum, coupled with just lots and lots of writing (not journal writing, please -- the average high school student does not need to spend even more time focusing on himself), would be positive for all involved.

So, also, would be verifiable, real, actual, useful basic drawing classes -- not ones that instruct the student to get in touch with his inner self, but ones that teach just what the description says: drawing basics. Can you imagine the difference that this would make in Pictionary games? Some of my children might then actually welcome my being on the team, instead of all wanting to partner with Steve.

julia
via stevehendersonfineart.com
thanks! As a pro editor, I always forget this and have to look it up... this is the funniest and clearest explanation yet! I will remember the fruit basket.

Carolyn Henderson
via stevehendersonfineart.com
Thank you, Julia. Your comment was the first thing to greet me on a rocky Monday morning, and it gives me a smile to start my week.

A lovely week to you!

vinola
via stevehendersonfineart.com
It's ironic that you and her also have gospel roots. Is this statement grammically correct.

Carolyn Henderson
via stevehendersonfineart.com
Hi, Vinola -- great question.

Drop off the her: "It's ironic that you have gospel roots."

Yes, this makes sense. Now drop off the You:

"It's ironic that her have gospel roots."

No. "It's ironic that she has gospel roots." Yes. (I changed the verb from have to has, because I'm talking only one person in this particular sentence, not two.)

So, the combination would be: "It's ironic that you and she have gospel roots."

Does that help?

Vinola
via stevehendersonfineart.com
What is the grammar for you and she.

Carolyn Henderson
via stevehendersonfineart.com
"You and she have gospel roots."

"This book is for you and her."

Daryl Kuiper
via stevehendersonfineart.com
The very first sentence has a grammatical error. Please use an adverb where it is required. Bad is an adjective. Badly modifies feel and is an adverb.

Carolyn Henderson
via stevehendersonfineart.com
Daryl: Thank you for your comment. With all due respect, the sentence stands correct as is, because feel, in the way it is used in this sentence, describes a state of beings, as opposed to an action.

If I were using feel in the tactile sense, as in, "I feel the cloth with my fingers," then I would use badly -- "Because my fingertips were burnt, I felt the cloth badly with my fingers," although that sounds awkward.

I am using feel, however, to describe who and what I am, or again, that sense of being: I am happy. I feel happy (not happily). I am sad. I feel sad (not sadly).

It is confusing, because feel can be used in both senses, as an active verb (The nurse feels my pulse) and as a helping one (I feel anxious). This is a very common misconception involving this word.

Daryl Kuiper
via stevehendersonfineart.com
I respectfully disagree. Bad is modifying feel so it is an adverb. I did not run slow. I ran slowly.
Slowly modifies ran not me(I). Bad modifies feel and answers the question how did you feel.

Carolyn Henderson
via stevehendersonfineart.com
That's okay. We can respectfully disagree. I stand by my answer -- I would even say that I feel happy (not happily) about it.

One of the finest English professors I ever knew (he had a B.A., back when professors were allowed to teach based upon what they knew, and not upon the letters after their name) reminded us that language is fluid, and while we can set up rules to define it, sometimes those rules don't work as hard and fast as we want them to.

When I use feel as a transitive verb -- as in, I feel the wind -- then I would use an adverb -- I barely feel the wind.

When I use feel as a form of be, which is how I see it in this case, then I do not use an adverb: I feel sick (not sickly). I feel angry (not angrily).

It all hinges upon how one chooses to look at the word feel.

Charles Tryon
via stevehendersonfineart.com
This is exactly the rule I was taught in elementary school many years ago. It's so incredibly simple, I still find hard to believe how many otherwise perfectly intelligent people get it wrong.

(The rule of thumb I've heard for "He and I" vs. "I and he" is that it is most polite to put your own name or pronoun last in the list. Not a hard rule, but a commonly used practice.)

Thanks!

Jaime Haney
via stevehendersonfineart.com
I have just shared this post on Google + and Twitter. I love the way you have explained the usage that is sometimes easy to get wrong. I need to buy your book to help my son with his schoolwork and grammar! I am afraid to write anything else here for fear of being grammatically incorrect!

Thank you!

Carolyn Henderson
via stevehendersonfineart.com
Jaime -- thank you. I'm glad that this helps, and I am grateful for your sharing this on your social media sites.

Please don't ever let the worry of possibly being grammatically incorrect ever stop you from expressing yourself! Ultimately, what matters is that we speak our mind, and anything that stops us from expressing good words, good truths, is not good -- even proper grammar!

Carolyn Henderson
via stevehendersonfineart.com
Charles -- it's a great explanation, isn't it? So simple, and so empowering once you get it. And yet, too few people are being taught these days -- either they're thrown into the pool of grammar, with all its terms and rules, and allowed to drown, or they're not given a bathing suit at all, and told they'll never learn to swim, so why teach them anything?

(Like you, I operate on the soft rule that I go after he or she, but some days, I feel, "By golly, I'm going to put myself first today, and eat some cake!")

Charles Tryon
via stevehendersonfineart.com
Heh... yes, sometimes grammar is complicated, but sometimes it really is pretty simple and intuitive, if you can just explain the thought process behind it.

The other tricky part is that, as you alluded to earlier, language is a dynamic, evolving entity, so things our parents were absolutely certain of may not necessarily be true for us or our children...

Blessings!

Cathy Maria Nierman
via stevehendersonfineart.com
I read your comments above regarding him/me, he/I, and it really helps me to put this in perspective for my English Grammar class. Thank you! However, how would I decide what is correct in the following sentence:

When Mrs. Bennet answered the phone, she thought him to be I.

Carolyn Henderson
via stevehendersonfineart.com
Cathy -- Good gracious! I think I'd just hang up on Mrs. Bennet.

Okay, "When Mrs. Bennet answered the phone she thought that he was I," is one way of phrasing it -- the I part would remain, because it's in conjunction with the form, "to be," and after a to be form, we use the nominative, or "I" case.

The "thought him," in my mind, is correct, because in this case, "him" is the direct object of the verb, "thought."



Cathy Maria Nierman
via stevehendersonfineart.com
Funny! I would like to hang up on Mrs. Bennet as well right now.

Carolyn, thank you very much for helping me out with this. I used to think that I wrote and spoke decent grammar, but am finding out that "how it sounds or looks" is not always the "proper" way. The more I try to figure it out, the more I get confused. I may call on you in the future if you don't mind. I am taking 6 classes right now, and this one (English Grammar) is turning out to be my "nightmare" class. Barely averaging a B at this point and spending entirely too much time trying to sort out "grammar rules" for my assignments. Only one month left of this semester - woo hoo!

Carolyn Henderson
via stevehendersonfineart.com
Cathy -- for the most part, how we speak does translate well into how we write.

Grammar classes are a nightmare, not the least because many instructors within them can be pedantic, narrow, and tightly focused. Both Steve and I were fortunate enough to study grammar under a man who recognized that language is fluid and moving, and there are frequently sentences that can go this way or the other. Not many grammar teachers have this attitude.

Get through the class, and don't let it destroy your love of writing or language, nor let it define whether or not you can write or speak. In the end, all of the grammar rules mean nothing if people are unable to express themselves, and many of the finest writers of history have managed to do this simply by their strong command of the spoken word, which they translated into their writing.

Cathy Maria Nierman
via stevehendersonfineart.com
Thank you so much Carolyn for your inspiration. I really do appreciate it, especially right now. I have always enjoyed writing, however lately, I've been second guessing myself and stressed over this class. My mind is just boggled with all of the "grammar rules." I'm having a difficult time retaining them all, and not confusing one with another. My class is online so I even find myself avoiding e-mails to my teacher, who is quite critical, for fear of making grammatical errors in the e-mail itself. This is vicious I tell ya!

Cathy Nierman
via stevehendersonfineart.com
Hello Carolyn. Your help last week was a blessing and inspired me to "keep at it" in this English Grammar class. Thank you! Could I bother you once again for your input on something? I have been working on another long assignment and seem to be stuck on a few sentences. Maybe I'm just tired today. Can I please ask for your help in clarifying if they are correct or not, and if not, why.

1. Mitchell sent copies to Mr. Norton and I.
2. Us teachers would like to make a proposal.
3. My son is taller than me.
4. Bill and myself will take inventory Friday after work.
5. You are as guilty as me.

Thank you so very much.
Cathy Nierman









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