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Peter Sokolowski, Editor at Large
Pronoun order
Wednesday October 7th 2009
Question
Pronoun order
Answer

A learner has written in with a good question about pronoun order.

We were taught that I and me come last when more than one pronoun is used in a phrase, that you comes next to last, and that any third-person pronoun comes first:

"Jill and I" not "I and Jill" = "She and I" not "I and she"

"You and Jill" not "Jill and you" = "You and her" not "Her and you"

"...my brother and me" not "...me and my brother"

 

But sometimes I see different constructions like these:

 

That was a big eye-opener for both me and her.

Me and Georgie -- we made up this morning.

I decided to write the story of me and Hanna.

 

I thought that putting the personal pronoun last was more polite and more correct. Am I wrong?

 

==

 

Editor Emily Brewster responds:

It's true that using the personal pronoun last when other pronouns are used in the same clause is considered polite. However, using a different order does not necessarily mean that one is being impolite. In fact, outside of formal contexts, using the first person pronoun before another pronoun is not a mistake and will not cause anyone to take offense.

In informal conversation, there is nothing impolite about the speaker using Me and Gorgie as the subject of a sentence; it merely serves to emphasize her own role in the making up that has happened. However, because it is informal, it might show that the speaker does not use language in a formal or careful way; therefore, this word order might say something about the background or educational level of the speaker.

When writing for a serious purpose (such as a test or a business letter) you should use the pronoun order that you were taught, so that a reader is not distracted by these aspects of tone and correctness.

You've struck upon a very subtle and interesting aspect of English grammar!

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