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Hello, fellow grammar fans! Today we’re going to explore the question posed by [personal profile] wanted_a_pony: “When do you use ‘you and I’ versus ‘you and me’? Are there differences in American and British English?”

Let’s find out the answer with a little help from the characters of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

The words you, I, and me are all pronouns, or words that replace nouns. If you want a thorough refresher on pronouns, you can visit this excellent Grammar 101 article by momebie. The condensed version is this: it depends on whether you’re talking about performing the action in the sentence or receiving the action in the sentence.

To explain further, both I and me are 1st person singular pronouns, which means that they’re used by a single person referring to himself, herself, or themself. I is the subject pronoun, meaning that it takes the place of the person doing the action in a sentence:
Hermione looked at Ron, who was staring at the contents of his cauldron in horror. “What are you doing?” she hissed.

I think the flobberworm slime is out of date. The potion’s gone all orange and bubbly!” he squeaked.

In the example above, Ron uses the pronoun I to stand in for himself when he answers Hermione’s question because he’s the one performing the action—thinking—in that sentence.

The pronoun me is a little different. It’s still 1st person singular, but it’s an object pronoun, which means it stands in for the object of the sentence; that is, me is the receiver of the verb’s action.

“Ginny, did you bring the Extendable Ears like I asked you to?” whispered Neville

Ginny shook her head. “You didn’t ask me! You asked Lavender, remember?”

In this example, Ginny uses me because she’s the one who received the verb’s action—being asked. She didn’t do the asking, so she (and any pronoun she’d use to refer to herself) is not the subject.

You is the easy one—it’s both a subject and an object pronoun, so you can use it in either place without having to think about it.

It all gets tricky when you put you and I or you and me together. After all, most of us were told “It’s not ‘Newt and me’ met the merpeople in the lake. It’s ‘Newt and I.’” As a result, many of us tend to default to “you and I,” regardless of whether we’re talking about the subject or the object in any given sentence, because we don’t want to make a mistake.

So should it be this:

You and me should search for the Demiguise and rogue Bowtruckles down on 5th Avenue,” explained Newt.


You and I should search for the Demiguise and rogue Bowtruckles down on 5th Avenue,” explained Newt.

The easiest way to check is to drop the “you and” and try the sentence with just the 1st person pronoun. So the first option would read like this:

Me should search for the Demiguise and rogue Bowtruckles down on 5th Avenue,” explained Newt.

That’s a silly, awkward sentence, and it’s clearly incorrect—though it might work well in a tongue-in-cheek cave-man sort of AU. The other option is much better:

I should search for the Demiguise and rogue Bowtruckles down on 5th Avenue,” explained Newt.

This version makes more sense, so it’s the correct option. The same trick also works when you’re trying to figure out how to word sentences like this one:

"That Niffler is going to get you and me into big trouble," Newt sighed.

If you try both options to check for the right one (get me into trouble/get I into trouble), it becomes clear which works best: me; that is, the object of the verb—the one receiving the action of getting.

The same holds true when you include a preposition in your sentence. (For a quick refresher on prepositions, take a look at this fabulous article by mendax.) Prepositions, like verbs, take objects. To demonstrate:

"I'll cook up something special for you and me tonight," Queenie promised Jacob.

Once again, if you try the I/me trick, you can tell which one to use—“cook something for me” makes a lot more sense than “cook something for I” because me is the object of the preposition for.

So what should you do in fic? Sometimes when you’re writing, you’ll want to go with the version that’s not grammatically correct because people are generally much more relaxed in their speech than in their writing. Queenie and Jacob, for instance, are more likely to say “You and me should go out sometime” than Newt and Tina, who’d be more likely to say “You and I need to capture the last of the mooncalves before dawn.” Some characters are simply more inclined to casual speech or have less formal education, so their speech will reflect that, regardless of whether they’re from North America, Europe, or anywhere else in the world. As long as you pick the option that’s right for your characters, you can’t go wrong.

Grammar Girl
The Oxford Living Dictionaries
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