My husband and I
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My husband and I

"My husband and I": a matter of personal pronouns

By Ted Bell

The question of whether to say or write "my husband and I" or "I and my husband" is not a matter of grammar but one of modesty or politeness. It is usually considered good form not to put oneself first. However, this may be why many people think that they must always talk of "my husband and I" and never of "my husband and me". In different situations, either of these expressions may be right, and there is a simple way of deciding which one to choose. It is correct to say "My husband and I are going to a party". It is also correct to say "A neighbour has invited my husband and me to a party".

Try dealing with each person separately. "My husband is going to a party and I am going to a party; a neighbour has invited my husband to a party and a neighbour has invited me to a party". You would never write "he has invited I", though you might hear this said in deepest Devon.

In grammatical terms, the noun husband can be the subject or the object of the sentence and the form does not change, but in the case of a pronoun (in this instance the first person singular pronoun) we use I for the subject and me for the object. If the first person plural were to be used, we would say "We are going to a party" and "a neighbour has invited us to a party". The complete list of personal pronouns which vary in this way is:

I / me he / him she / her we / us they / them

There is no variation with you, it or one.

As well as this subject/object use, we need to use the object form of any personal pronoun after prepositions such as for, with or in front of. The test above can still be used: "for my husband", "for me", "for my husband and me".

Incidentally, the French have personal pronouns similar to ours (such as je for I, me - pronounced muh - for me, nous for we / us);but they also have some emphatic pronouns of which moi is the most used. So it would be perfectly proper for a French speaker to refer to "mon mari et moi, nous ...". It could be that in a century or so we shall use me in this way in speech, but I doubt very much whether it will be written.

But the peculiarities of English do prove difficult for non-native English speakers. Thus the chef Raymond Blanc in an article in the Daily Telegraph (2 April 2011) describes his mother making "a traditional French breakfast ... for my brothers and I". What a pity this was allowed to appear without its being corrected to" brothers and me". Is it conceivable that the chef, who in his native tongue would have written "pour mes frères et moi", wrote the correct words in English and that some foolish person altered it to "for my brothers and I"? Surely not.