Sunday, 17 August 2014

The grammatical error that even the most intelligent people make


Using the word 'I' when it should be 'me'.

All these sentences are of a type I read often, and they're all incorrect:

Joe came to visit Bob and I last week.

The impression given to Bob and I was that Joe had stolen it.

Joe didn't tell Bob and I that he'd left

Joe took Bob and I to the pub

Things started to go wrong for Bob and I after the war


I think people make this mistake because, if their mothers were like mine, they were always getting told off for saying "Me and Bob are playing in the garden." Mother would say, "No, Bob and I are playing in the garden" - which is as it should be, of course.  But it's not always right.  Some people use it simply because they think it sounds 'posher', having the impression that "and I" is always correct.

Not so!

It's easy ~ If you're not sure if you should write 'Bob and I' or 'Bob and me', simply take out the 'Bob and'. See what I mean? As soon as you read 'Joe took I to the pub' you realise that it's wrong.  Thus, it should be Bob and me in all five examples listed above. 

I see this mistake even in professionally edited books; I even saw one in a Phillipa Gregory!  Yes, yes, I daresay her editor might find the odd error in stuff I've written, too, but it won't be this one.  

Correct: 

Joe came to visit Bob and me last week.

The impression given to Bob and me was that Joe had stolen it.

Joe didn't tell Bob and me that he'd left

Joe took Bob and me to the pub

Things started to go wrong for Bob and me after the war


Sorted!














38 comments:

  1. Spot on for indirect speech, descriptive passages etc.

    But (between you and me!) I don't mind if some characters don't have faultless grammar in direct speech.

    My weak spot is "If I were..." I know it's "If I were a rich man," or "If I was you" (not "I was you"), to capture a hypothetical situation. But sometimes have to think twice with phrases such as "If it were any darker the..."

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    1. No, of course dialogue can and should have grammatical errors in, depending on the character - because not everyone speaks in perfect grammar. That would make it unrealistic!

      I get what you mean re the was/were thing - was a bit confused at first, I think you meant the first 'was' to be a 'were' - or is that confusing.... oh never mind! Thanks for reading and commenting :)

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  2. My go-to rule for breaking is the ban on prepositions at the end of a sentence. Or, as Mr. Churchill put it, “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”

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    1. Barb - I've read that what he actually said was "This is the sort of bollocks up with which I will not put" !!! But I think that's a style thing rather than actual bad grammar, anyway, isn't it? I don't do 'writing rules', either!!!

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  3. It war Bob an’ me wot dunnit
    The strick grammer(sick)ian said
    (In an accuser(sick)tive voice)
    I replied, “Just use your speech marks,
    If you wish to be James Joyce.”
    ;)

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  4. Having only read The Dubliners, and that was 18 years ago, I am afraid I do not get jokes about Joyce apart from the fact that I see to remember he didn't use speech marks!!!! I hold me hands up in ignorance, Christina :^D

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  5. Well said.

    However, possibly even worse is 'Bob and myself'. I once worked for a man who insisted on dictating letters filled with '...please forward the details to Joanna or myself'. Eventually, it made me cringe so much, I told him he was mistaken. But he refused to believe me!

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    1. Joanna, Joanna, a woman after my own heart! I too used to work for one of those - the letters always said things like "We look forward to doing business with yourselves". Arrrrrgh!!!!! You can't tell 'em, though, can you!

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  6. Well, you learn something new every day - I would have always (until today) written Bob & I, rather than Bob and me, and (until today) assumed I was correct o_O

    Thanks Terry, useful post :)

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    1. Hi Kimmie - glad it was useful! Bob and I is sometimes correct, it depends on the context. For instance, 'Bob and I went shopping'. 'Joe didn't know Bob and I didn't like curry'. If you do the taking-out-of-the-'Bob-and' bit test, though, you will never get it wrong!

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    2. Thanks Terry, I'm glad you replied and reminded me of the test, otherwise I probably would have gone completely the other way, replacing all 'I's' with 'me'. Grammar's not my strong point lol Can you tell?! Still learning, even this late in life, is fun :o) x

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    3. Ha ha, yes, that was what I suspected - I hoped you would read the reply!!! Am always happy to help, as is @ProofreadJulia (my sister!) on anything you're not sure of! :)

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    4. Oh, thanks, off to follow now :) x

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  7. Oh, yes, Terry – I think people think it's more posh to do it that way. A similar one is using WHOM when it should be WHO – they think it's more literary!

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    1. Anne, I laughed out loud when I read this - you're SO right!!!! I wanted to say this myself, but didn't like to, so I'm glad you did it for me! it's often done by the 'serviette' brigade - you know, the ones who don't say paper napkin because they think serviette sounds posher, little knowing that it's actually the opposite :)

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  8. Is it acceptable to say "Joe took me and Bob to the pub"? Because I found this post puzzling until I recast it that way and realised that in the examples given I would probably put me first (and most people would, naturally, unless they overthought it, because we are all egocentric). Then I wasn't sure if that was grammatical or not.

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    1. Sure that's acceptable - I think in England we see the 'me and Bob' thing as lazy speech, something we'd say in relaxed conversation. In writing, obviously it would be okay in dialogue because people speak lazily all the time, but it would probably be a good idea to think of another way to phrase it for narrative! Perhaps you're over thinking it? This may be because Englaih isn't your first language? If what I've said doesn't make sense to you, am happy to clarify on any other points! :)

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  9. I heard a leading Conservative politician on TV say, 'It was us who had the idea for the Millennium Dome.' Is this correct or not? (Pedro)

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  10. Grammatically speaking, it should be 'we', although that does sound a little cumbersome.

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  11. Nicely explained! My wife and I won't be making that mistake again, even though it hasn't been a big problem for her and me. And thanks for the RT today on my wife's website... she really does write great columns, and it's been hard to attract readers, even using Alltop, etc.!

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    1. Thank you - Mark, a great way to get more readers for posts is to tweet them on Mondays, using the #MondayBlogs hashtag, and retweet plenty of other people on the hashtag too. My blog views have increased SO much since doing this - I hope the same can happen for your wife! Thanks for reading and commenting - perhaps you could tweet me the link again for your wife's site? Then I could read/tweet too :)

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  12. I'm often beginning sentences with a conjunction. But I think they work, especially in tabloid newspapers. What's your take on this, Terry?

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    1. I do sometimes, too, if it sounds right; not doing so is a silly writing 'rule' though, not a grammatical error. Something entirely different!

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  13. Ahhh such a simple thing and I didn't know the rule. Thanks Terry! I know I am guilty of this but I won't be anymore!

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  14. Never bothered to learn too much of this. Thought that's why we use great editors like Terry! lake

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    1. I'm not an editor, e a !!! But yes, a GOOD editor will spot it. Thanks for reading :)

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  15. Excellent post Terry - I'm pretty sure I'm guilty of this as I am of most grammatical errors! The test for checking which one it should be is easy to remember as well - thanks for sharing :-)

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  16. Replies
    1. Yer uncle. Or the OAP next door with the enormous todger (see review for Senior Sex Parties 5/2)

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  17. I don't know Bob so this doesn't apply to I.

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  18. The problem is manifold: most talking heads speak badly and incorrectly, at least in the US, especially without prepared texts. But even then, they rely on interns, most likely, and people don't read enough (off the Web) to have a sense of what the language should sound like.

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    1. I am nodding my head, you said it all. Amazes me when I see it in traditionally published books; it's rife in the self-pub. Happily, this article has educated a few about it, they've told me!!!

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  19. I've read (and commented) on this post before... but something else struck me today. In the first paragraph you refer to 'The-Mum-correction (my Mum used to say the same to me), and you point out that "I" is of-course correct... However, if you take the 'Bob' out of "Bob and I are playing in the garden", you're left with "I are playing in the garden" which doesn't make sense... but then neither would "me are playing in the garden..." o_O

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    1. No, but 'Bob and I' is two people, ie plural, thus 'ARE' playing in the garden. If it was just one person, ie singular, it would be 'I AM playing in the garden, or Bob 'IS' playing in the garden.

      Example:
      Bob, Sally and I are riding bikes (plural)
      Sally and I are riding bikes (plural)
      I am riding a bike (singular)
      Sally is riding a bike (singular)

      However, there is no way in which 'me' would work!!!

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  20. Exactly right, Terry. I have a clear memory of a big call-out box from my Grade 3 grammar book, which said "I goes last." The lesson was to say "Bob and I," not "I and Bob went to the store," because it was more polite. But it seems people can only learn one lesson at a time, and the lessons you learn when you're 7 or 8 persist through life.

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    1. Aha! I'm so glad you agree with me on the reasons, Scott :) x

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