Grammar Mini-Blog: May Imani go to the movies with Katie and I?

When we were little, we would run to our parents and declare, "Me and Justin want ice cream!" and immediately, before even dealing with the emergency issue of ice cream, our parents would say, "Justin and I."  And thus, we were trained, when you include yourself and someone else in a statement, you never say "me."  You always say "I."

You won't get corrected if you say: " Justin and I" or "Katie and I."  But, is that always the correct way to refer to your self and someone else? 

Interestingly, it's often not correct, because there is no rule about which pronoun to use when you talk about yourself and someone else.  Whether you use "me" or "I" depends not on the fact that you include another person, but on how you are using the pronoun.  The subject pronoun is "I."  If you and the other person are the subject (or actors) in the sentence, use "I."  If you are the objects (the receivers of the action), use "me."

Do you remember subject and object pronouns?

  Subject Pronouns Object Pronouns
1st person singular I me
2nd person you you
3rd person singular she, he, it her, him, it
1st person plural we us
3rd person plural they them

Subjects are the main actors in the sentence, and use subject pronouns:

I eat ice cream

She eats ice cream

We eat ice cream

Objects are the recipients of the action of the sentence, and use object pronouns.

 Ice cream eats me.

Ice cream eats her.

Ice cream eats us

The rules about what pronoun to use do not change if there is another person.  Just add the other person and the pronoun. 

Imani and I I eat ice cream

She and Henry eat ice cream

Ice cream eats Imani and me.

Ice cream eats her and Henry.

In fact, an easy way to see what pronoun to use when you are talking about more than one person, is to take out the other person.  So, do you say:

May Julia and I go to the mall?

or

May Julia and me go to the mall?

To test it, take out Julia.  Would you say:

May I go to the mall? 

or 

May me go to the mall?

"I" is obviously the right answer, so you say "May Julia and I go to the mall?"

You can also test by using the 1st person plural pronouns in place of the two names.  If you would correctly say "we" then "I" is the right singular pronoun. On the other hand, if you would say "us" then "me" is the correct singular pronoun.  Let's try the example above:

May Imani go to the movies with us?

May Imani go to the movies with we?

"Us" is clearly the right answer, thus you would correctly say, "May Imani go to the movies with Katie and me?"

This second trick works best when you can't take out one of the people.  So, which of the following is correct:

Let's keep this secret between you and I.

Let's keep this secret between you and me.

Let's try using "we" and "us."

Let's keep this secret between we.

Let's keep this secret between us.

In this case, "us" is correct, so is the statement, "Let's keep thi secret between you and me."