There are certain tips and tricks teachers give students to help them keep their grammar in check. “Never start a sentence with the word ‘because.’” “It’s ‘you and I,’ not ‘you and me.’” Sound familiar? Guidelines such as these are meant to help kids with their writing and are easy to remember. And that’s fine. What I don’t like is when teachers throw out these tips without explaining them properly, making them sound like rules rather than guidelines.
“Because of the storm, we couldn’t go bowling that night.”
“We couldn’t go bowling that night, because there was a storm.”
The above two sentences say the same thing. Some people may prefer the second version, maybe because they were taught the aforementioned rule, but depending on context, the style, or the sentences around it, the first may sound better.
Obviously, the reason for this rule is that this, by itself, is not a complete sentence: Because of the storm. But as long as a sentence has a subject and a verb and makes sense, it is a complete sentence.
The second rule I mentioned I see abused fairly frequently. Then again, I also see it ignored. Every day.
“You and me need to go out sometime.”
This sentence IS wrong. This is the reason the “rule” is even taught. In this instance, “you” need to go out sometime, and “I” need to go out sometime. If you wouldn’t say “me” if you were only talking about yourself, don’t say “me” when you’re talking about others as well.
“You and I need to go out sometime.”
People who blindly follow the rule, thinking they are being proper, sometimes make the opposite mistake. I once heard a manager of mine say, “Can you meet _____ and I at the front?”
“Can you meet _____ at the front?”
“Can you meet I at the front?”
In this situation, if you separate the two, you know that it’s supposed to be, “Can you meet _____ and me at the front?”
The purpose for this rule is that when you are talking about you and someone else, and you and that person (or people) are the subject of the sentence, you always use “I.” When you are not the subject, you use “me.” Most often, if you are at the beginning of the sentence, you ARE the subject of said sentence, as in the previous sample sentence. Please don’t leave that out if you are ever teaching someone that rule. Separating like I did above usually helps clear up any confusion.
I understand the purpose of these rules, and with English being as wacky as it is, I don’t blame anyone for giving out any quick guidelines, but if you are going to teach or use them, please do so responsibly. Otherwise, we get a bunch of people thinking they sound intelligent when they are in fact just misinformed.