Back to you and I (who went to row the boat ashore)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Feb 19 02:45:04 UTC 2010

At 8:26 PM -0500 2/18/10, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>At 2/18/2010 07:32 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>>I've been monitoring "between you and I" on TV for years, and I
>>guaran*******tee that it's been almost as long since I've heard anybody, on
>>TV or off, say "between you and me."  In fact, AFAIK, I'm the only person I
>>know who stilll says "...and me" - because long ago I was taught that if I
>>didn't I'd be thought to be a lamebrain.
>>Now James and I are the lamebrains. That's irony for you.
>I'm another.  (Although as a reviewer once wrote about the vampire
>movie "Black Sunday", I have an irony deficiency.)  I instructed a
>teen-age acquaintance to analyze this by removing the "and" and the
>named person, leaving only the pronoun, and asking herself would she
>still say "<preposition> I" (or as the object of a sentence)?  E.g.,
>"Tom gave the book to I" will immediately sound wrong, whereas "Tom
>gave the book to Jane and I" may sound OK.

This assumes that the rules for case on simple (non-conjoined)
objects are the same as those for conjoined ones, and it's clear that
for many speakers they aren't, just as the rules for simple subjects
(*Me can do it) are not the same as for conjoined subjects (Me and
you can do it/You and me can do it/You and I can do it).  There's
actually quite a lot of recent work addressing these issues from the
direction of just what the (sets of) rules are that people are
operating with, the upshot of which is that it's not quite so simple,
and not quite so unsystematic as it may appear.  In any case, I'm not
sure about the logic of the argument above, since "I" *is* the object
of the preposition in "*Tom gave the book to I", but "I" is *not* the
object in the latter case, "Jane and I" is.


>  Of course that can't be
>applied to "between" -- can't remove the "and".  And of course the
>lesson probably didn't take.
>>On Thu, Feb 18, 2010 at 6:07 PM, James Harbeck <jharbeck at>wrote:
>>>  ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>>  -----------------------
>>>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>>  Poster:       James Harbeck <jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA>
>>>  Subject:      Re: Back to you and I  (who went to row the boat ashore)
>>>  I have a related, though not quite identical, case: I was walking
>>>  down the steet one day last year when a young woman came up with her
>>>  camera and said, "Can you take a picture of my friends and me?"
>>>  indicating herself and another woman and a man. And then she said,
>>>  "Sorry about the grammar." I said, "What about the grammar?" She
>>>  said, "You and me... you and _I_..." I told her that actually in that
>>>  context "you and me" was correct. She seemed surprised. After I had
>>>  taken the picutre and was walking away, I heard her ask the man with
>>>  her, "Is that correct, 'you and me'?" And he said, "No, it's 'you and
>>>  I.'"
>>>  I find in general people who use phrases such as "between you and I"
>>>  use them with the idea that "X and me" is always incorrect and "X and
>>>  I" is always correct. I can't say that I've ever encountered anyone
>>>  who uses them both distinctively within the same register (as opposed
>>>  to using "you and me" when speaking unselfconsciously and "you and I"
>>>  when trying to be correct). That makes it different from, for
>>>  instance, "split infinitives," where a given person may use "really
>>>  to do" and "to really do" to mean different things.
>>>  It's also a little different from double negatives, which are
>>>  sometimes used as a deliberate overt register marker: "wrongness" in
>>>  quotation marks, as it were. I don't see people using "you and
>>>  I"/"you and me" used to mark out deliberately "wrong" colloquial
>>>  speech, probably because "everyone knows" that double negatives are
>>>  "wrong," whereas this usage is still contentious and will tend to be
>>>  taken as a marker in earnest of incorrectness.
>>  >
>>>  But, Robin, it seems you have data that contradict my own
>>>  observations... I'd be interested in further details. It may well be
>>>  different in the usage contexts you encounter.
>>>  James Harbeck.
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