1. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Why not "I"?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by ohmyrichard, May 15, 2010.

    Hi, everyone.
    Just now I happened to have read at the very beginning of an online article written by an American lady who is married to a Chinese national the following sentence:

    Me and my Chinese boyfriend have been dating over a year.

    This sentence reminded me of a Chinese speaking and writing contest held by the Education Office of the Chinese Embassy in Belgium and Belgian Chinese Language Teachers Association in Brussels in 2008. The topic for the contest was "China and Me".

    My question is, why do we here in these two cases use "me" instead of "I"? Can we say either "me" or "I" in these two situations? By the way, obviously, there is a difference between these two phrases: "Me and my Chinese boyfriend" is the subject of the sentence, while "China and Me" is the title of a speech or essay. If the two are used as the object of a verb or preposition, it is normal to have "me" used rather than "I". But neither of them follows any verb or preposition. And this is why I've got this question. Please help me.

    Thanks.
     
  2. Humour Whiffet
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    Humour Whiffet Banned

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    As Mammamaia said to someone the other day, the simplest way to get your answer is to Google something like this: I v. Me. It would take an age to write a quality answer, and there are hundreds of good explanations out there already!

    In brief though, it depends whether the pronouns are acting in a subject position in the sentence or an object position.

    The sentence you gave is grammatically incorrect. It should have said I and not me. However, it is usual to state the I second. In other words write: “My Chinese boyfriend and I...” NOT: “I and my Chinese boyfriend...” (although the later is correct, it sounds odd).

    “Me and my Chinese boyfriend...” is wrong in the sentence you gave.

    However, if you were to change the pronouns’ position in the sentence, they could function correctly. For example: Spicy food has never appealed to my Chinese boyfriend and me.

    In “China & me” what such a construction means is “Us.”

    As a quick rule of thumb, think of I plus Mr X as = we.

    Think of me plus Mr X as = us.

    Therefore in your sentence, you wouldn’t say “Us have been dating over a year.” You’d say “We have been dating over a year.”

    So once you have worked out that it is a we construction, use Mr X plus I.
     
  3. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    In the sentence starting 'Me and my boyfriend...' the grammatically correct pronoun is 'I', not 'me' because it should be a subject, not object pronoun, as HW says above. So:
    'My Chinese boyfriend and I...'

    It is considered bad form to put 'I' first, but I was taught as a child the only reason for this is because it is more polite!

    However, in informal usage and speech it's much, much more common to say:
    'My Chinese boyfriend and me...'

    Note that if you use the 'I' you run the risk, in some circles, of people thinking you are trying to copy the classic phrase of the present queen, Queen Elizabeth:
    'My husband and I...' so sadly you might raise a snigger, among inane British expats anyway!

    As to 'China and Me' I've seen this type of title so often that I couldn't find fault with it really. It's talking about the effect China has on the person, not a relationship between people, so I see no reason why using the object 'Me' would be substandard English. That is only my personal opinion, though. Because it's a title and not part of a sentence, you can also think of it as a plural, like HW suggests.
     
  4. laciemn
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    laciemn Senior Member

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    One really easy way to tell is just omit the "boyfriend" of the sentence. Like

    When you omit "my chinese boyfriend" you have

    Me have been dating over a year. *shudder*

    Take out "my mother" and correct were to was, and
    I was going to the store.
    vs
    Me was going to the store? Really?

    Incorrect usage of I:

    Omit my friend, and you are left with
    They are harassing I.
    So it should be,
     
  5. izanobu
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    izanobu Senior Member

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    If it is fiction, "wrong" grammar often sounds more informal and conversational. Know the grammar rules, but get ready to chuck them if need be, because perfect grammar often makes language stilted and characters sound unrealistic.

    Usually in professionally published writing when a grammar rule is broken, it was done for a reason or effect.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    mad and laciemn gave the best explanations...

    i is used when it's the subject of a sentence
    me is used when it's the object of a sentence

    same goes for 'he' and 'him' or 'she' and 'her'

    as for that title, the 'me' there = an object, not a subject, as if the full sentence was '(About) China and Me'...
     
  7. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    The sentence "Me and my Chinese boyfriend have been dating over a year.", as I said in my OP, is taken from a blog by a native speaker of English, rather than from a fictional piece.

    A follow-up question: Is the blogger intending to sound informal and more engaging? Is that the way you native speakers speak to your family members or close friends or colleagues or the way you write when you wish to be informal? If so, are both "Me and my Chinese boyfriend" and "My Chinese boyfriend and me" in the subject position allowed in such informal situations?
    Thanks.
     
  8. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks a lot for explaining "China and Me" in a to-the-point manner.
    Why do almost all of you say what is written by a native speaker of English is incorrect? In such a writing or conversational situation where "me and my Chinese boyfriend" is in the subject position, what on earth are your formal and informal ways of expressing the idea? I would like to be clear about everything of the issue? Are the following a complete range of options :Me and my Chinese boyfriend; My Chinese boyfriend and me; I and my Chinese boyfriend; and my Chinese boyfriend and I? I was also taught when I was beginning to learn English in junior high school that "I and ..." is something impolite if we are not admitting to something wrong we've done and should be avoided.
    Thanks.
     
  9. Humour Whiffet
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    Humour Whiffet Banned

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    Native speakers get it wrong all the time! I went to your link and am sure that it is just an error. After all, it is just a blog post.

    Here is a link to Oxford University's explanation:

    http://www.askoxford.com/betterwriting/classicerrors/grammartips/iorme?view=uk

    If the link has to be taken down, then just google "I or Me" and the Oxford explanation is the top one (at least on my search).
     
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  10. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Do you mean that some native speakers of English(Can I use "natives" for short?) do speak or write carelessly and that they may feel quite comfortable with the way they produce those ideas but actually that way is unacceptable or too casual?

    So in your view the only correct version for this case is "My Chinese boyfriend and I". Is it right? I do not find it difficult to understand what is on that webpage you directed me to. I learned those grammar rules long ago, but I often come across things that are ungrammatical in articles or books or movie subtitles but I find many natives speak that incorrect way. Then that widely accepted incorrect way of saying something causes a big problem for nonnatives like me, who are dubious about whether to follow suit or refrain from doing the same.

    Since I want to know everything about this issue, I beg you to answer two more questions. I was taught when I was in junior high school starting to learn English that in English, usually we say "... and I " unless we are admitting to something wrong we have done. When we admit that we have done something wrong, we have to place the "I" at the very beginning of the sequence to show that we are not trying to avoid the blame or the biggest portion of the blame. Is this a correct understanding?

    Another question is somewhat related to the first. When "my Chinese boyfriend and me" is used as the object of a verb or preposition in the sentence, is it also right to say "me and my Chinese boyfriend"? For example, can we say "The old couple invited me and my Chinese boyfriend." besides "The old couple invited my Chinese boyfriend and me."?

    Thank you in advance.
     
  11. Humour Whiffet
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    Humour Whiffet Banned

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    Yes, us natives are often careless! (I was deliberately sloppy in that last sentence. It should say “we natives...”)

    However, as has been pointed out by Madhoca, the object forms (me, him, us) are often used with double subjects in informal speech. If you’re writing dialogue, it may sound too formal and stilted if you don’t break the odd rule here and there. For example, I rarely use “whom” when I am talking to someone, even when it would be grammatically correct to do so.

    Jane Austin uses “me” with some double subjects in her novels.

    Personally, I can’t see any good reason for the writer’s use of the objective form in the article that you linked to. I just think it was an error.

    Re your two questions:

    1. (admitting you’ve done something wrong) Again, it all depends on whether the pronouns are being used as subjects or objects.

    Jim and I smashed the window.

    Or
    The window was smashed by Jim and me.

    But as mentioned above, in informal use you may want to opt for “me.” For example, if you are writing dialogue in a short story.

    2. When a pronoun is the object of a verb or preposition, use the objective form (me, him, her, us, them).
     
  12. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I have to agree with Whiffet in that I cannot remember being taught or having it organically ingrained that there should be a change in order of grammatical persons when the topic of the sentence happens to be admission of blame or culpability. The rule of reverse order of grammatical persons (3rd, 2nd, 1st, in that order) when listing persons would still apply.
     
  13. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm always for breaking things down to their simplest form and solution. And the simplest way to figure this 'problem' out is to take the other person(s) out of the equation. In most cases, you will find it quite clear as to which form to use. (Try it, you'll like it!)
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...no one can answer that but the blogger...

    ...it's the way many do any of the above, but not as i do, since it's poor english and thus makes no sense to me...

    ...it's not correct, thus i hope would not be 'allowed' by any who know it's improper usage for any situation other than in dialog, if the character is meant to be a sloppy speaker...

    not necessarily, since it's still awkward to place 'i' before another person's name... and placement of the name/i does not indicate percentage of blame, anyway... the 'and' makes each side equal...

    ...either is correct...

    ...wordsmith's suggestion is the easiest way to tell what works best for figuring these things out...
     
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  15. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks,maia.
    Back to the issue of the title of "China and Me" for the speech and writing contest held in Belgium in 2008 I talked about in my original post, you said that here the title means "About China and Me". Madhoca said that it is talking about the effect China has on the person. Both of yours are great explanations. To my knowledge, we often have "On..." as the title of an academic paper, in which we have our view on some academic subject thoroughly explained. It seems that we cannot say that the title of "China and Me" for that speech and writing contest is equal in meaning to "On China and Me". However, I am not sure of this understanding and I would like to have your view on it.

    As to the contest I mentioned in my original post, my understanding of the writing situation is that those Belgians were invited to write or speak about the influence of a foreign culture on them. In mid-July this year my students will take part in an English writing contest titled "Jiangsu and Me". In this title, "Jiangsu" is the name of the home province of most of my students. And they are now studying and living in the capital city of Jiangsu Province. Some of my students were even born in this capital city. My question is, is it appropriate for someone to write about the influence of something which is not foreign on him or her? I mean that compared with "China and Me" for those Belgians, we here have a different writing situation. The organizers might have gotten the inspiration from "China and Me" but they might have unintentionally neglected the difference between the two writing situations. The two titles of "China and Me" and "Jiangsu and Me" are designed in the same style, but the question is, is it proper for someone to write about the effect of his or her birthplace on him or her? I am dubious about the acceptability of this "Jiangsu and Me". Or, I may have overthought this issue. Please give me a helping hand and give your view on it.
    Thanks.
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    in that context, 'on' is equal to 'about'... so either would be correct...

    of course it is and such writings abound... and yes, you are over-thinking this... ;-)

    hugs, m
     
  17. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    You mean that the title of the writing and speaking competition "China and Me" can be construed as "On/About China and Me", which actually means "On/About the Influence of Chinese Culture on Me", do you?

    I owe you and the other members of this forum who have replied to my questions a great debt of gratitude.
     
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  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, that's what i mean... and what those titles can mean...
     
  19. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thank you and all the other members who have helped me with my problems.
     

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