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Between You and Me

Just between you and me, today I'm going to talk about the pronouns I and me. Celine Dion gets it right. Jessica Simpson does not.

By
Mignon Fogarty,
Episode #064

You and I Versus You and Me

Here's why the song title “You and I” is correct: The title comes from the line You and I were meant to fly. In that line, you and I are both in the subject case. We're taking action—flying.

That seems pretty straightforward. So now we can move on to “Between You and I” and figure out why it's wrong.

Between is a preposition, just as on, above, over, and of are prepositions. Because prepositions usually either describe a relationship, or show possession, they don’t act alone; they often answer questions like Where? and When? For example, if I said, “Keep that secret between you and me,” between describes where the secret is to be kept. If I said, “I'll tell you the secret on July 5,” on describes when the secret will be revealed.

So, instead of acting alone, prepositions are part of prepositional phrases. In those example sentences, between you and me and on July 5 are prepositional phrases. And it's just a rule that pronouns following prepositions in those phrases are always in the objective case (1). When you're using the objective case, the correct pronoun is me, so the correct prepositional phrase is between you and me.

Most grammarians are sympathetic to people who say between you and I because it's considered a hypercorrection. The theory is that people have been so traumatized by being corrected when they say things such as Ashley and me went to the mall instead of Ashley and I went to the mall that they incorrectly correct between you and me to between you and I (2, 3, 4). I don't have anything against Jessica Simpson. I know I indirectly picked on her last week too because she was in the video I posted on the blog showing George Bush saying, “nuclear power pants.” But if remembering that her song “Between You and I” is wrong helps you remember the rule, then she's done a service to the world.


References

  1. Strumpf, M. and Douglas, A. The Grammar Bible. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2004,  p. 208.
  2. Garner, B. A. Garner's Modern American Usage. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, p. 100.
  3. HiDuke, J. “Frequently Asked Questions.” Dr. Grammar Website. 2001, www.drgrammar.org/faqs/ (accessed June 25, 2007).
  4. Brians, P. “I/You/Me.” Common Errors in English. wsu.edu/~brians/errors/myself.html (accessed June 25, 2007).

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