Pedantique-Ryter : Between You and I? Better than me?

Between you and I?

telling secrets : between me and you

It’s a secret. Just between you and…er…

According to Fowler’s Modern English Usage, “between you and I” is to be condemned. Anyone who writes that abomination is living in “a grammarless cavern”.
What we should write, of course, is “between you and me”.

How to tell?

Without going into the grammar technicalities, ask yourself whether you’d write or say “between I and you”. You wouldn’t. You’d say “between me and you”. Normally, we put ourselves second but that doesn’t change the rule on whether to use “I” or not.
It’s “between me and you”, so it’s also “between you and me”.

I often wonder if people say “between you and I” because they think it sounds posher. Remember Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes who always referred to herself as “a girl like I”?  As if “between you and me” were a vulgar, gutter expression that “educated” people would not use. In fact, it’s the opposite. “Between you and I” is the product of Fowler’s “grammarless cavern”.

But it wasn’t always so.

Fowler reminds us that Shakespeare wrote:

Shakespeare who sometimes got grammar wrongAll debts are cleerd betweene you and I if I might but see you at my death
Merchant of Venice (Act 3, Sc 2)

but he also wrote:

There is further complement of leave-taking between France and him
King Lear (Act 1, Sc 1)

In any case, Merchant of Venice was written 400 hundred years ago. And, if challenged, Shakespeare could always say he was quoting a letter written by a character (Antonio) whose grammar was not of the most educated.

Pedantique-Ryter Tip #1 : Between You and I?

For modern writers, there is no ambiguity. “Between you and I” is always, ALWAYS, wrong.
Correct current English is “between you and me”. Always and only.

Sneaky writer’s tip And if you’re caught out doing it wrong, use the Shakespeare defence and maintain that it was your character’s ill-educated usage, not yours ♥

With he and I? After he or I? Around he and I?

Pick any preposition you like — before, after, with, between, in, on, around, by… — and the rule is the same. It applies to all the pronouns (I/me, you/you, he/him, she/her, we/us, they/them). It’s correct to write:
With him and me. After him or me. Around him and me.

question mark : him and me or he and I?If you’re not convinced, try taking out the words “and I”, “or I”. Would you say…
With he. After he. Around he.
I hope not.
You would say:
With him. After him. Around him.
Also: With / after / around me.

So when you put them together, you keep the same words:
With him and me. After him or me. Around him and me.

Pedantique-Ryter Tip #2 : With he and I? For he and I?

When you’re trying to decide whether to use I/me, she/her, etc in a double phrase like for he and I, take out the red-herring words like “he and”, or “and I” and you’ll immediately know which words to use. It’s ALWAYS correct to use the object form (him, her, etc).

Better than me? As good as I?

Sadly there are almost always cases in English grammar where the answer is less clear. So it is with than and as.
The difficulty arises because both words can be conjunctions or prepositions.

description better than I or better than me?1   Jenny writes better descriptive passages than me.
2   Jenny writes better descriptive passages than I do.
3   Jenny writes better descriptive passages than I. [“do” understood]
4   Jenny writes description as well as me.

5   Jenny writes description as well as I do.
6   Jenny writes description as well as I.
(“do” understood]

All the examples are correct 😉
In examples 1 and 4, than and as are prepositions. In examples 2, 3, 5 and 6, they’re conjunctions.

You probably felt that examples 3 and 6 sounded pompous. And so they do.

Pedantique-Ryter Tip #3 : Better than me? As good as I?

In formal writing — your thesis, your letter to your pedant godmother — it’s a good idea to go for the fuller version with the extra verb (examples 2 and 5) because it’s always correct. If you go for the shorter version on the model of examples 1 and 4, your pedant godmother may conclude your English is not up to the mark. She may even tell you, while rewriting her will to cut you out, that you should have written “Jenny writes description as well as I” because the verb “do” is understood. You’d be wise to avoid arguments with pedant godmothers, especially if you have hopes of being remembered in that pesky will.

Thank You from me, I Pedantique-RyterFor everyone else, and in speech, stick to “better than me” or “as good as me” because “better than I” sounds pompous, however correct your average pedant may declare it to be.

More writing tips soon.

I. Pedantique-Ryter


Pedantique-Ryter’s Don’t-Need-To-Read Geeknotes #4

I wwnt more geeknotes from I Pedantique-RyterBetween is a preposition, ie a word governing, and usually preceding, a noun or pronoun and expressing a relation to another word or element. After a preposition, the objective form of a pronoun (= me, you, him, her, us, them) must always be used. It’s especially important when two pronouns are linked by and or or.

conjunction is a word that connects clauses or sentences or words. Common conjunctions include: and, but, because, for, though, as, or. But you already knew all that, didn’t you?

12 thoughts on “Pedantique-Ryter : Between You and I? Better than me?

    1. Dame Isadora Pedantique-Ryter Post author

      I have no doubt, Lesley dear, that you would not make such an egregious error. Try to spread your veil of correctness over the backsliders, if you have a moment. Thank you.

  1. janegordoncumming

    I’m constantly correcting this in people’s MSS, pointing out that you wouldn’t say ‘to I’, and putting ‘and’ in makes no difference. I remember this being discussed on Neighbours once, strangely enough, and someone protesting ‘But the average Australian would say ‘to I”. Hm.

    1. Dame Isadora Pedantique-Ryter Post author

      The “average Australian” is clearly in the same category as Lorelei Lee — “a girl like I” — it would seem, Jane. IF a programme like Neighbours is to be believed… Perhaps not the best authority on grammar?

      1. janegordoncumming

        But an alarming insight into English how it was spoke. In Australia, anyway.

        Incidentally I caught one of the sisters in Howards End doing it the other day! Couldn’t believe my ears.

    1. Dame Isadora Pedantique-Ryter Post author

      Can’t say I’ve ever been called “Dame Is” before, but there’s a first time for everything. Glad to have been of help, in any case, Elizabeth.

    1. Dame Isadora Pedantique-Ryter Post author

      Well, Louise, I do hope the word is spreading. But this particular peeve is merited as the mistake is found everywhere. We must keep trying to stamp it out.

    1. Dame Isadora Pedantique-Ryter Post author

      Welcome to Libertà, Sarah, and I’m glad we’ve been helpful to you. One more convert to the light is one little step towards better English for all. Which is — of course — what the Pedantique-Ryter campaign is all about.

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