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When to Use "I" and "Me" and "Who" and "Whom": The Naughty Grammarian Explains

Catherine Giordano, aka "The Naughty Grammarian," has had her fiction, non-fiction, and poetry published in books and periodicals.

Is It "I" or "Me"? Is It "Who" or "Whom"?

Are you confused about when to use "I" and "Me"; when to use "Who" and "Whom"?

Are you confused about when to use "I" and "Me"; when to use "Who" and "Whom"?

Before we Begin the Lesson: Who Is Miss Grammers?

Miss Grammers is a cross between Miss Manners and The Naughty Librarian. She has a prim demeanor most of the time, but sometimes she shows the world her wild side. She is fierce on the subject of grammar.

Miss Grammers indulges her naughty side by writing a romance novel, Loves True Desire, the story of the romance between Doug and Melanie.

Her librarian/grammarian side uses excepts from her book to illustrate some of the rules of English grammar.

Now the we have come to an understanding, let's begin the lesson.


When to Use “I” or “Me”

“I” is a pronoun used as a subject. “Me” is a pronoun used as an object of a verb or a preposition.

Most people are not confused about “I” and “me” when there is only one subject.

I want a kiss. [No one, at least no one over the age of three, ever says “Me want a kiss.”]

Give me a kiss. [No one, not even toddlers, ever says “Give I a kiss.")

“For the life of me, I will never understand you,” Melanie cried. [There’s no inclination to reverse the “I” and “me” in this sentence.]

"I" is the Subject; "Me" is the Object.

"I" is the subject, "Me" is the object.

"I" is the subject, "Me" is the object.

A Simple Test To Decide When To Use "I" and "Me"

The confusion between "I" and "me" seems to arise when there is a compound subject. Is it “Doug and I” or “Doug and me”?

The Rephrase-the-Sentence-Without-the-Other-Subject Test

There is a simple test to help you get this right. Just remove the second subject ad rewrite the sentence.

“Doug and I are engaged,” Melanie said triumphantly. [“I“ is the subject and “I am engaged” sounds right.]

Everyone should give Doug and me a hug,” Melanie said. [“Me” is the object of the verb “give” and “give me a hug” sounds right.]

“If you are talking about Doug and me, I hope you are saying something nice,” Melanie said. [“About” is a preposition and “me” is the object..“If you are talking about me” sounds right.]

The entire cheerleading squad and I are in love with Doug. ["I"” is the subject and “I am in love with Doug” sounds right.]

The wedding planner will meet with Doug and me. [“Me” is the object of the preposition “with” and “The wedding planner will meet with me” sounds right.]

When to use "Who" and "Whom"

Just as with “I” and “me”, the correct usage of “who” and “whom” depends on whether the pronouns are standing in for the subject or the object.

Who is for subjects.

Whom is for objects—direct objects, indirect objects, objectives of prepositions and objectives of infinitives.

Melanie asked, "Who wants to kiss me? ("Who is the subject, the one doing the kissing.).

"Whom did Doug kiss?" (Whom is the object, the person Doug kissed.).

“Whoever” and” whomever” follow the same rules as "who" and "whom."

"Who" is the Subject; "Whom" is the Object

"Who" is used for subjects; "whom" is used for objects.

"Who" is used for subjects; "whom" is used for objects.

A Few Tests to Decide When To Use "Who" and "Whom"

Just as with “I” and “me”, the correct usage of “who” and “whom” depends on whether the pronouns are standing in for the subject or the object.

The Rephrase-the-Sentence Test for Statements

If it is not clear to you what is the subject and what is the object, you can use the “he/him” test. (Or the she/her test. Miss Grammers is not sexist.) You can try rephrasing the sentence using “he” and “him” to see which sounds right. If “he” sounds right, you have a subject and you should use “who.” If “him” sounds right, you have an object and you should use “whom.”

Who wants to kiss me?” Melanie asked. [“He wants to kiss me.” sounds right, so I need a subject and I use “who.”]

"Whom did Doug Kiss?" ("Doug kissed her." sounds right, so I need an object and I use "whom.")

“I will marry whomever I please,” Melanie shouted. [I will marry him.” sounds right, so I need an object and I use “whomever.”]

Whoever wants the flowers, raise your hand. [“He wants the flowers.” sounds right, so I need a subject and I use “whoever.”]

I will give the flowers to whomever wants them. [“I will give the flowers to him” sounds right, so I need an object and I use “whomever.”]

The Rephrase-the-Sentence Test for Questions

Questions can be rephrased as a statement to see if “he” or “him” sounds right.

To whom shall I give the flowers? [“Give the flowers to him.” sounds right, so I chose "whom."]

Who wants the flowers? [“He wants the flowers.” sounds right, so I chose "who."]

The Match-the-Verbs Test

It gets a little more complicated when who/whom is part of a clause. You will need to determine the subject of the clause. Here is a trick to help you do that.

One way to do this is to look at each verb which has a tense (present, present continuous, future, etc.; ignore infinitives) in the sentence and determine which verb goes with which subject. If you have a verb left over, then that verb needs a subject and you will use “who.”

I am asking (who/whom) wants the flowers. [“I” is the subject of “asking”, and wants does not have a subject, therefore “who” must be the subject of ”wants.”’ ] The correct sentence is: I am asking WHO wants the flowers.

I am asking to (who/whom) I should give the flowers. [The first “I” is the subject of “asking”, the second “I” is the subject of “should give.” There are no verbs left, so “whom” must be the object of the preposition “to.”] The correct sentence is: I am asking to WHOM I should give the flowers.

When you use this technique you have to make sure you include implied subjects, like in the sentence below.

Ask (whoever/whomever) takes the flowers to give them to Melanie. [In this sentence, the word “you” is implied. The pronoun "you" is the subject of the sentence. “You" is the subject of the verb “ask." “Takes" needs a subject and that subject is “whoever”. “To give” is an infinitive and is ignored.] The correct sentence is: Ask WHOEVER takes the flowers to give them to Melanie.]

The If-All-Else-Fails Test

Miss Grammers will now give you permission to just go ahead and do what you want. If you have tried the above tests and you are still not sure whether it is "who" or "whom," say the sentence aloud and go with whichever sounds best to your ears. If you get it wrong, probably no one else will even notice because no one else knows the correct way either. But don't tell anyone Miss Grammers said that.

The Naughty Grammarian

The Naughty Grammarian for once has nothing to say.

The Naughty Grammarian for once has nothing to say.

"The Naughty Grammarian" Ends the Lesson

Miss Grammers is feeling quite exhausted right now. It is not easy to tease out "who" from "whom" and explain it to one and all. Whoever thinks this is easy should try it sometime.

Miss Grammers feels her answers to the I/Me/Who/Whom dilemma might seem unsatisfying. The only response Miss Grammers wishes to give at this moment is, "Doug, Melanie, and I are done in, and we have nothing more to say to whomever might wish to inquire."

Take this poll...

A little quiz to see if you have learned your lesson..

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Which is correct?
    • Melanie promised to tell us who introduced her to Doug.
    • Melanie promised to tell us whom introduced her to Doug.
  2. Which is correct?.
    • Melanie said, "Doug and I are engaged."
    • Melanie said, "Doug and me are engaged."
  3. Which is correct?
    • Maleanie said, "The flowers are for Doug and I."
    • Melanie said, "The flowers are for Doug and me."
  4. Which is corrct?
    • Who is responsible for the fight?
    • Whom is responsible for the fight?
  5. Which is correct?
    • Melanie did not know who to blame for the fight.
    • Melanie did not know whom to blame for the fight.

Answer Key

  1. Melanie promised to tell us who introduced her to Doug.
  2. Melanie said, "Doug and I are engaged."
  3. Melanie said, "The flowers are for Doug and me."
  4. Who is responsible for the fight?
  5. Melanie did not know whom to blame for the fight.

© 2014 Catherine Giordano

Miss Grammers is eager to know your thought sand comments. Please share.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on October 10, 2014:

Thank you Sandeep for your comment. I often hear and even see this done wrong.

sandeep murmu from Dhanbad on October 10, 2014:

Thanks for clearing I and me. Really, I had not thought about it.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on October 04, 2014:

Thanks so much for taking a look. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Dianna Mendez on October 04, 2014:

I and me are so often confused in writing sentences. You defined their role well. I loved your quiz and scored high honors. Thanks for the education today.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on September 26, 2014:

Goatfury: Thank you for the comment. I'm sure I am as guilty as your friends . I'm glad Miss Grammers prodded me to study this.

Andrew Smith from Richmond, VA on September 26, 2014:

Another good one. This one gets so many friends of mine, it's ridiculous.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on September 26, 2014:

Thanks Pawpa. Who and whom is the mequivalent of a tongue twister.

Jim from Kansas on September 26, 2014:

Thanks. Who and Whom does get me sometimes.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on September 25, 2014:

chef and annart: Thank you for your comments. In spoken English, who is practically acceptable even where whom is correct. However, the bar is higher for written English. Also if you train your ear through your writing, you are more likely to get it right when spoken.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on September 25, 2014:

Chit: English is sometimes a ridiculous language. Why should it matter if we say who or whom? I had a request to do who and who so I did it.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on September 25, 2014:

This is very interesting and educative at the same time. Though English is not my mother tongue, I have been an English teacher. And I remember students getting confused in using these words.

Useful, educative and informative hub! Voted up and pinned on my education board.

Ann Carr from SW England on September 25, 2014:

I'm so glad you're doing this series. So many people are confused over all of the above. I like the way you have your regular characters with Miss Grammers; it keeps the flow.

There are of course those who argue that if words are not in everyday use then they're out of date. I argue that, especially if writing, we need to keep basic grammar and correct usage because meaning can otherwise be lost.

Your friendly and humorous approach keeps the reader engaged and, let's face it, that's not easy to do with grammar! Always good to read your hubs.

Ann

Andrew Spacey from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK on September 25, 2014:

Some useful tips, guidelines and information, thank you. Who and whom have been battling it out for years! In my experience, whom is losing ground rapidly. In normal everyday conversation I don't hear it that much, people seem to accept who when whom should be the word - but it's nice to know whom is still alive and kicking.

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