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A Word, Please: A simple formula settles ‘I’ or ‘me’ question

In a tweet reposted by someone I don’t know, someone else I don’t know broadcast the following message: “Sending warm wishes to you and your family from Boomer and I.” (Who said technology isn’t bringing us closer together?)

Boomer, apparently, is the cute dog whose picture appears beneath the text. “I,” apparently, is a human who either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that he should have used “Boomer and me.”

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If he doesn’t care, that’s fine. Really. You can say something is “from Boomer and I” if you want. Language experts consider it acceptable.

But I have a problem with this usage. I’m convinced that, almost without exception, when someone chooses “from Boomer and I” over “from Boomer and me” it’s not by choice but because they believe “me” would be a mistake. They’re wrong.

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At the root of these errors is an unlikely culprit: Mom. Remember how Mom would come down hard every time you said stuff like “Me and Boomer are going for a walk” or “Sherry and me are watching TV”?

In these cases, she was right. “Me” is ungrammatical in these sentences.

But despite this generally good advice, most people got the wrong message. Because Mom clearly had it in for “me,” they surmised that “me” is probably best avoided altogether.

So they developed a preference for the pronoun that never seemed to get them in any trouble: “I.”

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Unfortunately, sometimes “me” is right and “I” is wrong.

The reasons get kind of technical. They involve the grammar of subjects and objects as well as the functions of prepositions.

But you don’t have to know any of that to get “me” and “I” right.

If you can’t be bothered with the grammar — or if, like many people, you find the rules hard to remember — there’s a simple formula that will get you a good answer every time. Just omit the other person, or dog, in your phrase.

For example, if you don’t know whether the best wishes are “from Boomer and I” or “from Boomer and me,” go it alone. Boomer-free, you’d have to choose between “best wishes from I” or “best wishes from me.” It’s clear it should be “me,” right?

Now try that in “Boomer and me are going for a walk.” Sans Boomer, you have either “I am going for a walk” or “Me am going for a walk.” A no-brainer.

On the flip side, tinkering the same way with “Watch Boomer and me” would give you a choice between “Watch me” and “Watch I.”

See? It works like a charm.

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Instinctively, we all understand subject and object pronouns. “Me” is an object. It receives the action of a verb, like “watch,” or it serves as the object of a preposition, “Give it to me.”

Conversely, “I” is a subject. It performs the action in the verb: “I danced.”

Most pronouns have both object and subject forms: I is a subject; me is an object. He is a subject; him is an object. We is a subject; us is an object. They is a subject; them is an object.

The most notable exception is “you,” which is the same no matter whether it’s a subject or an object: You love pizza; pizza doesn’t love you.

Prepositions — most notably “between” — always take objects, never subjects. That’s just a rule. So “between you and me” is the grammatical choice, not “between you and I.”

You can’t test this out by omitting the other person because “between me” and “between I” are nonsensical.

But if you try “we” and “us” instead, the answer is just as clear. Would you say “Keep this between us” or “Keep this between we”?

The object pronoun “us” is the obvious choice just as, sometimes, the object pronoun “me” is the only way to go.

JUNE CASAGRANDE is the author of “The Joy of Syntax: A Simple Guide to All the Grammar You Know You Should Know.” She can be reached at JuneTCN@aol.com.

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