Thursday, December 27, 2007

Between You and Me or You and I?

While hanging at Jyot's this past weekend, I stumbled upon an SAT practice test and started doing the Verbal section. One sentence correction question had "between you and I" as one of the underlined grammatical elements possibly in error. I didn't think it was, but it turns out ...
Between You and I.

Between you and I? — Between you and I? — You should be ashamed of yourself.

First, the technical explanation: between is a preposition; it should govern the "objective case." (In English, that's a concern only with the pronouns.) A preposition can't govern a pronoun in the subjective (or nominative) case, even when there are multiple pronouns after the preposition.

That explanation should be enough for the serious grammar nerds. For the rest of you, think of it this way: when you have two pronouns after a preposition, try mentally placing each one directly after the preposition. "Between you" should sound right to your ear, but "between I" jars: "between me" sounds much more natural. Since it's "between you" and it's "between me," it should be "between you and me."

Ditto other prepositions, like for, to, from, with, by, and so on. If something is for her and for me, it's "for her and me," not "for she and I"; if Akhbar gave something to him and to them, he gave it "to him and them," not "to he and they." Try putting the preposition directly before all the following pronouns, and then use the form that sounds right in each case.

The problem probably arises from hypercorrection: it sometimes seems that you and I is "more correct" than you and me. It's not — at least, it's not always. Be careful. [Entry added 8 March 2005.]

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