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Are ‘Me and My Friends’ Breaking Grammar Rules?


Are ‘Me and My Friends’ Breaking Grammar Rules?
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Parents always have concerns about the way their children speak. Personally, I am unhappy when I hear my children saying things like,

Me and Eric will be there soon.

Now, I am learning that I should not worry. Over the past 20 years, English grammar teachers have developed some powerful new tools to learn about how people really use English. One such tool is the Corpus of Contemporary American English, or COCA. A corpus is a collection of language samples drawn from books, speeches, television programs and online work. Researchers use computers to study the corpus. The COCA website says the purpose of looking at this body of information is to find out "how native speakers actually speak and write" and how often people use individual words and expressions. As a result, the advice in grammar books has been changing.

Compound subjects

One of those rules is how to handle compound subjects. A sentence’s subject is the person, place or thing that is doing something or being something. Some call the subject the "actor" in the sentence. A compound subject means more than one person, place or thing is doing or being something. They are joined with a word such as "and" to make the subject of a sentence.

Some English language experts say that when you speak about yourself and someone else, you should speak of yourself last. Here is an example.

My friend and I are going to eat lunch together today.

and not:

I and my friend are going to eat lunch together today.

This is not an unbreakable grammar rule but is considered by many to be more polite than putting yourself first.

Object and subject pronouns

In past Everyday Grammar stories, you have probably read about another rule related to this kind of sentence. That is, you should use the subject pronoun "I” and not the object pronoun, "me" when you are an "actor" in a sentence, as in this example.

Andy and I will be studying English tonight.

and not:

Andy and me will be studying English tonight.

One easy way to remember is to take the other subject out of the sentence. For example, you would not say

Me will be studying alone tonight.

You would say,

I will be studying alone tonight.

But the use of "me" as a subject pronoun seems to be growing more common. Mark Liberman is a Professor of Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania and founder of a language commentary blog called Language Log.

Liberman says that researchers looking at COCA found that "me and someone" is "about three times more common than ‘someone and me.’" Examples of the compound subject form "I and someone" are rare in the COCA.

Here are some examples of this compound subject I found in COCA, with notes about their sources:

Me and Joe Biden were going to be on this Sunday. (on a Television program with VOA reporter Greta Van-Susteren)

Me and Kelly, we hang out. (on a television program, Without a Trace)

So what should you do, as an English learner? You cannot go wrong by using "Someone and I" for your compound subjects. It is correct. But, if you break the rule, people will still understand what you are saying.

Good enough for me and Bobby McGee

We leave you with an excellent musical example of the "me and someone" form of compound subject. Here is Janis Joplin performing Me and Bobby McGee, recorded in 1970.

Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose

Nothin' – and that’s all that Bobby left me

Feelin' good was easy, Lord, when Bobby sang the blues

Feelin' good was good enough for me

Good enough for me and Bobby McGee

I’m Jill Robbins.

Jill Robbins wrote this story. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

actuallyadv. used to stress that a statement is true especially when it differs in some way from what might have been thought or expected

polite - adj. having or showing good manners or respect for other people

hang outphrasal verb. to be or stay somewhere for a period of time without doing much

What do you think of "me and someone?" We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

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