LawProse Lesson #175: Just between you and ME . . .

LawProse Lesson #175: Just between you and ME . . .

Just between you and ME . . . The grammatical blunder *between you and I is pervasive in writing and speech generally, and legal writers are hardly immune. Writing or saying *between you and I (or *for you and I, *to you and I, and so forth) is invariably wrong: Whenever a pronoun is the object of a preposition, it must be in the objective case. You and me are the objects of the preposition between {keep this between you and me}. Why is the phrasing *between you and I so appallingly common? As Eric Partridge once wrote: “The common error of using I here may be due to a widespread distrust of you and me by those who have been correctly instructed not to use this combination as the subject, as in ‘You and me will have to talk.'” Eric Partridge, Usage and Abusage 47 (Whitcut ed., 1994). It’s an ingrained instance of hypercorrection. Elementary-school students learn that it is incorrect to say *Rick and me walked to school together. So we develop a wariness about the word me (and specifically the combination and me), and people think perhaps it’s safer to stick with I —even when the objective case is called for {Terrance gave the case files to John and I [read me]}. Here’s a little trick that should help. Read the sentence with the personal pronoun by itself: *You and me are going to the movies. OR You and I are going to the movies. *Does she expect you and I to help? OR Does she expect you and me to help? If you’re unsure, leave the other person out of it. You wouldn’t say *Me is going to the movies, so I is correct. Nor would you say *Does she expect I to help?; so me is correct. Another example: *Please show the exhibit to him and I. OR Please show the exhibit to him and me. You wouldn’t say *Please show the exhibit to I, so me is correct. Him and me are objects of the preposition to: use the objective case. Please feel free to share this tip (gently) with your family, friends, and colleagues. Don’t keep it just between you and me. *Invariably inferior form. Further reading: Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 109, 417, 719 (3d ed. 2011). Garner’s Modern American Usage 102-03 (3d ed. 2009). The Chicago Manual of Style § 5.36, at 212 (16th ed. 2010). Eric Partridge, Usage and Abusage 47 (Whitcut ed., 1994).

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