Wordwatch

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.

‘My friends and I’ or ‘me and my friends’?

with 9 comments

Tables for Ladies

Table for Ladies, Edward Hopper, 1930

Both of these can be correct.

There is an easy test to apply when deciding if you should
use ‘I’ or ‘me’ in a sentence.

Me and my friends

Look at these two sentences:

My father is taking me and my friends out to dinner.

My father is taking my friends and I out to dinner.

In this case, the first sentence is correct. The test is to shorten
the sentences:

My father is taking me out to dinner.

My father is taking I out to dinner.

Now you can easily see that the first version is correct. You would not say:

My father is taking I out to dinner.

Therefore, you would not say:

My father is taking my friends and I out to dinner.

The correct version is:

My father is taking me and my friends out to dinner.

 

My friends and I

A similar test can be applied with the following two sentences:

My friends and I are going out for dinner.

Me and my friends are going out for dinner.

Just shorten the sentences:

I am going out for dinner.

Me is going out for dinner.

You can immediately see that the first version is correct:

I am going out for dinner.

Therefore, the following is correct:

My friends and I are going out for dinner.

However, remember that when speaking or writing in a casual/informal style, it’s not a hanging offence to break these rules!

Further clarification, January 2013:

The Wordwatch Towers butler has just rushed in (i.e. walking a little faster than standing still) to let me know that there is much discussion on the interwebs about whether or not the person writing/speaking should always place herself or himself second in the sentence.

Some people are asserting that the following sentence  is ‘wrong’ because the writer/speaker is mentioned first:

 My father is taking me and my friends out to dinner.

 Well, to be clear, it isn’t ‘wrong’; it’s correct, as is the following:

 My father is taking my friends and me out to dinner.

Similarly, both of the following are correct:

 I and my friends are going out for dinner.

 My friends and I are going out for dinner.

In summary, you can place ‘I’ or ‘me’ first or second; the choice is entirely yours. Also, see discussion about this in the comments thread below.

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9 Responses

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  1. A related issue is whether to put “I” or “me” before or after “friends.” Apparently, there’s a school of style that says to put yourself second (or last), out of a sort of modesty or deference. I say that’s fine if you choose to do so, but it ain’t no rule. Also, in some sentences, you’d want to stress yourself and defer to the others, such as when you’re the ringleader or taking prime responsibility for something.

    ESL speakers often put themselves first in English (e.g., “I and my mother”), I have observed anecdotally. I’ve heard this a lot among Asian ESL speakers, which is especially odd when you consider that Asian cultures often de-emphasize the individual. (As a Japanese proverb has it, “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.”)

    Michael Farrell

    07/02/2010 at 5:58 pm

    • Hi, Michael — thanks for all these interesting observations. I’ve heard that ‘modesty/deference’ argument, but also feel it’s a matter of choice. I very much like the Japanese proverb, which I haven’t come across before.

      Deborah

      07/02/2010 at 6:03 pm

      • At least a couple of Asian languages — Japanese and Korean — frequently drop the first person entirely; there’s a predicate only. (Spanish also does so, but not only in the first person.) It’s always clear anyway; turns out we’re far less important than we think we are.

        Michael Farrell

        07/02/2010 at 6:16 pm

        • I don’t know about Asian languages but as I know in Spanish and Italian they drop the I/you/he/she etc because you can understand it from the verb.

          sina eradati

          22/02/2014 at 10:11 pm

          • Hi, and thanks for visiting! That’s very interesting to hear. Thanks very much for sharing.

            Wordwatch

            23/02/2014 at 8:41 am

  2. It’s either my friends and I or my friends and me. Come on this is fifth grade English. Read the comments everyone agrees. http://www.reddit.com/r/lifehacks/comments/16vbg1/my_friends_and_i_or_me_and_my_friends_easy_way_to/?sort=confidence

    rpcob

    19/01/2013 at 9:50 pm

    • I edited out the unnecessarily abusive part of your comment. I assume you mean that grammatical etiquette dictates that the person speaking/writing should place herself/himself second. That’s a choice, not a rule. I should warn readers who want to click on the link you have provided that it contains some profane language.

      Wordwatch

      19/01/2013 at 10:38 pm

  3. It’s very interesting to see both usages, “I and my friends” and “my friends and I” correct. I’m Asian, speaking Mandarin Chinese as my mother tongue. In both speech and writing, “I” in Chinese is placed first and others second. When I started learning English, my English teachers always said, for politeness, “I/me” is always the last to mention in English. I’ve lived in England for a period of time, “my friends and I” is not always the case. Instead, I hear quite a lot of native English speakers use “me and my friends”.

    It was a rule as my teachers said “I/me” is always placed the last, but here you’re right. It’s a fashion, not a rule. None of my grammar books has mentioned the issue between “I and my friends” and “my friends and I”. The information of “I/me the last” is given by my teachers. Yet, as I still think it looks and sounds odd to place “I/me” first. I consulted Oxford Dictionary of English for “I” and “me”, as both words would refer you to see the usages of “between” and “personal pronoun”. There’s no mention of such issue again. However, example sentences Oxford Dictionary provided are never with “I/me” placing first. Why is this? Now I can consider “I and my friends” as informal (rather than correct or incorrect), but again, if it is an “informal” usage, why does Oxford Dictionary not mention it at all? And why does none of my grammar books ever write “I and my friend”?

    Serena

    07/12/2013 at 2:38 pm

    • Hi, Serena — many thanks for all those very interesting observations. When speaking, native English speakers will break the rules of grammar all the time. There’s nothing wrong with such informal usage; it really doesn’t matter! It’s just when writing/speaking formally that it’s good to know the rules and how to apply them. I think if reference works such as the Oxford Dictionary of English had to discuss every possible variation and alternative, they would never get to the end of their explanations! I’m guessing that ‘I’ and ‘me’ are usually placed last in grammar book examples to satisfy the ‘etiquette’ of placing oneself after others. But as already mentioned, it’s not a rule as such. :)

      Wordwatch

      07/12/2013 at 3:38 pm


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