I/me: He is better than <I, me>.

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Curious about Language, Aug 27, 2008.

  1. Curious about Language Senior Member

    Australia, English
    Hello everyone,
    I have a question about the use of "me" or "I" in this sentence. My understanding is that "I" is grammatically correct, but in practice would rarely be used by a native speaker. "Me" is grammatically incorrect, but what the vast majority of people would say. If anyone can shed any light on this topic I would be most interested!
  2. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    Hello Curious,

    Did you see the existing threads on the topic? :)

    You have understood the grammatical aspect correctly, and your observations about common usage seem accurate to me.... but here is at least one native speaker who says "better than I," or "better than I am." :p
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2008
  3. Curious about Language Senior Member

    Australia, English
    Oops! I used the search option but didn't find those links for some reason! Thanks Jann!
  4. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    ???? I'm not sure why you think that the "vast majority" would use "me" incorrectly. Is the grammatically incorrect "me" used commonly in Australia? I do hear it a lot in the U.S. but everybody I know uses it correctly.

    Having said that, you didn't give us any context so perhaps I'm misunderstanding you.
  5. crunchy New Member

    I've never heard of "better than I". According to what I've learnt, both "better than I am" and "better than me" are OK.
  6. liliput

    liliput Senior Member

    U.K. English
    I would use either "better than I am" or "better than me". Regardless of how "correct" "better than I" may be, I wouldn't use it and rarely hear it. If you want something that is both grammatically correct and idiomatic then I recommend "better than I am".
  7. Curious about Language Senior Member

    Australia, English
    Thank you all for your posts. Dimcl, yes, the vast majority of Australians would say "me" rather than "I". In an Australian context, "I" would sound rather stuffy. "Better than I am", specifically stating the "am" that is implied by the "I", sounds better and is probably more common.
  8. Machin

    Machin Senior Member

    Peruvian Spanish
    Stick to the correct use:
    He's taller than me.
    He's taller than I am.

    In a more advanced context, you should write the full form.

    I know as much about computers as my sister. (this sounds you are comparing computers to your sister)
    I know as much about computers as my sister does. = this sounds more accurate=
  9. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    The problem is that "He's taller than me", while very common, is not correct.

    For example:

    "No one was more surprised than I to find out we had been laid off." :tick: However, in the U.S. you would more likely hear:
    "No one was more surprised than me to find out we had been laid off." :cross:

    "She is taller than he (is), but she doesn't mind." :tick: more commonly said
    "She is taller than him, but she doesn't mind." :cross:
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2008
  10. Machin

    Machin Senior Member

    Peruvian Spanish
    I agree with you JamesM, but in most grammar books, they present these two alternatives. However, one should bear in mind the setting where the conversation takes place. I mean, if it is conversational English, then many possibilities are available, but if you are writing using formal English, then you should use the full form.
  11. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    Really? I'm surprised, but then I haven't looked at a grammar textbook in quite a while. They honestly offer "He is taller than me" as an example of correct English? Things have changed. :)
  12. Machin

    Machin Senior Member

    Peruvian Spanish
    JamesM, well I usually check textbooks since I work with students at school. We work with both American and British English books; also besides we have resource books from other English-speaking countries.
    However, other textbooks will only present this structure with examples like "than Carla, than Tom."; consequently avoiding the controversial "than me."
    Many of the books that present "than me " as a correct option are for a beginning or low-intermediate level.
    We should then regard the full form (than he is.) as correct. Still, I do not think we could say: "She runs faster than he." We have to use full structure "than he does."

    Kind regards
  13. Meanimee New Member

    Hi everyone!
    I'm not a native speaker, but I would say ''better than I'', not instinctively but logically - if ''better than I'' is an ellipsis of ''better than I am.'' We simply cannot say ''better than me am''.
    I'm studying English and I think that this is the way we learned it (if my memory serves me well).
    Please correct me if my reasoning is wrong.
  14. mplsray Senior Member

    "He is better than me" is quite correct and logical if than is taken as a preposition rather than a conjunction. In such a case, "He is better than me" is in no way a shortening of a longer sentence, and me is in the required objective case.

    It would be difficult, I expect, to find a major English dictionary which does not label this use of than as a preposition. The Oxford English Dictionary is an exception, identifying this use as a conjunction used "as if than were a preposition." It does this even though it points out in the same entry that "than whom" is entirely standard.

    Presumably, the next time this entry is edited, it will identify than in this use as a preposition, as than is labeled in the "basic dictionary" at oxforddictionaries.com.
  15. Meanimee New Member

    Thanks for the explanation :). I can't disagree. It does make sense if ''than'' is considered as a preposition.
  16. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Corpus evidence suggests that 'than I (am)' is uncommon in spoken English, and is mainly found in written English. I read that somewhere, but I can't quote chapter and verse now. :(
  17. Meanimee New Member

    After all this confusion I had to look it up in my grammar book (A STUDENT'S GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, by Greenbaum and Quirk).
    I'm using examples from the book:

    He always wakes up earlier than I. (formal) - this is an ellipsis of:
    He always wakes up earlier than I wake up.

    He always wakes up earlier than me. (informal)

    I'm not sure if it can apply to our example ''taller than I/me'', but I think it should.
  18. Kirja Senior Member

    Thanks, Meanimee, for making it so clear :D. During all these years that I've been studying English (that is 8 years), I've never faced this problem! I didn't even know it was important to know whether to use I or me!
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2011
  19. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    Meanimee's grammar book describes the old version, where than is always a conjunction. Newer views, noted above, accept its use as a preposition.
  20. Mistermarcos69 Senior Member

    Italian - Italy
    Hi everybody!

    I need help with the following sentence:

    You drink more beer than me.

    In particular I need to know if "me" is correct. I think "I" should be used instead of "me".

    What do you think about it?

    Please let me know asap.

    Many thanks

  21. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    "You drink more beer than me" is common, Mister Marcos. However, it's not the standard English taught in school. "You drink more beer than I do" is a better way to say it, especially for people who are trying to speak good English.
  22. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    'You drink more beer than me' is correct and good English. Only a minority of people say 'than I', and to the rest of us it sounds stilted and old-fashioned. Teachers used to try to get people to say 'than I', for no good grammatical reason. I would recommend you say 'than me', and avoid 'than I'. You will sound a lot more natural.

    This is different from 'than I do', which is also correct - here 'I' is subject of a verb, not object of a preposition, so 'me' is not possible.
  23. flyinroom New Member

    english - canada
    It may or may not be accurate to say that many people would use the "you drink more beer than me" line. However, your question was "is it correct ?".
    In order to be grammatically correct you should use "I" which is the subject of the unwritten but implied verb "do".
    Rules matter....
  24. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    So when I answer the phone and the caller asks to speak with Packard, do I say, "This is he." or "That's me." ?

    I think it is "This is he". And I think "You drink more beer than I."
  25. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    English is not always logical ... and often far from it.

    If you can't say "You can drink me" (implying you're some sort of liquid) then you shouldn't be able to say "you can drink more beer than me."

    It's a losing battle in AE, however. :mad:
  26. brunaa Senior Member

    Rio Grande do Sul
    Portuguese(BR)- English(US) bilingual
    Allow me to chime in;),

    I'd say: It's me or that's me. But can't tell you why:(
  27. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    You might and many do .... but don't write it on any formal test of your English ability.
  28. brunaa Senior Member

    Rio Grande do Sul
    Portuguese(BR)- English(US) bilingual
    Sure I won't sdgraham! Thanks;)
  29. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Mod note:
    The thread started by Mister marcos69 (post 20) has been merged with an earlier thread on the same issue.

  30. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    [With the merged thread this recapitulates an earlier entry, but I'll leave it anyway] More and more people consider than as a preposition and use object pronouns after it. (see the WRF dictionary usage note under "than"). If I use subject pronouns, I include the verb. He is taller than I am. He is taller than me.

    When I show people my old school class photos, I point to someone very young-looking and say "That's me when I was seven". Does anyone say "That's I when I was seven"? That sounds as weird to me as "He is taller than I" sounds hypercorrect, or at least old-fashioned :) Shades of gray (grey?) as language usage evolves?
  31. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    Did you read the previous posts?

    If you are writing it as part of a test/exam or speaking formally, write/say I, if you are writing informally or saying it, me is more common.
  32. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    Just for completeness.

    You will not be incorrect if you use I and include an appropriate verb.
    He drinks more beer than I do.
  33. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    So it is without difficulty that we can difference between:
    “I drank more beer than you.”
    “I drank more beer than two pints.”
    I am reminded of a 1950s(?) Consistory Court Case in which the immortal line, “I think we may consider the Bishop’s horse to be an aeroplane.” was uttered. Than’s designation as a preposition was, (i) given its common use about 100 years too late and (ii) indeed most fortuitous given the concern. But then there is always that lingering doubt that the Procrustean designation was made to stop the fighting over “than I/me” rather than for any good reason.

    It makes me think that any statement such as, “Screwdriver is a noun” should be suffixed with “for the time being.”
  34. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    Indeed. As late as 1970 "interface" was a noun. And we all know how that worked out.
  35. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    Do I infer you would indeed say "That's I when I was seven"? :)
  36. mplsray Senior Member

    If you want to avoid any controversy whatever you could write "You drink more beer than I do."

    I personally would write "You drink more beer than me."
  37. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    No, if I recall correctly, the photo was of you, not me. :)

    However, there is a point here: whereas than has been conveniently classified as a preposition, there is, by the same argument, reason to say that the verb to be takes a complement in the nominative or, in certain circumstances, an object in the accusative.
  38. Ironicus Senior Member

    English & Swahili - East Africa
    If you say someone drinks more beer than me, you are implying that you know how much beer me drinks. But I am sure you have some idea of how much beer I drink.
    If you say that you know more about computers than your sister, I am hardly likely to think that your sister is so incomprehensible that you understand her less well than you understand a computer.
    The upshot of it all is that, while I is always right, me is often more natural and easier on the tongue and the ear.
    We usually hear this problem as an argument between "It is I" and "It's me". So far, there are no winners.
  39. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    It would be well into an evening of drinking before I would be certain that my buddy drank more beer than I did. At that point my grammar would be going to hell, and my buddy would never notice.

    All my grade school teachers, who in retrospect all seemed to be teetotalers, taught me to say "I" and not "me". So when sober it is what I do (I am uncertain of my grammar when I'm drunk), and I would suggest that all new learners do the same. Thirteen grades of teetotalers can't all be wrong.
  40. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    English no longer has an accusative case. It has a case for subjects, and a case for everything else. For me the most natural is to use what might be called a disjunctive complement after to be since the complement is neither a subject nor an object. It can of course be different in person and number from the subject, so any "agreement" then is artificial.

    What happened was that, centuries ago, we made a shift from "Hit æm ic" (= "It am I", as in German or Latin) to "(H)it is", followed usually by "me" and, especially when there was a verb of which it could be the subject, sometimes by "I", as in "It is I who speak to you, not your brother."

    Then came Latin as a lingua franca for educated English (and continental Europeans) and a need to make teaching Latin easier for native English speakers. The controversy was born from that need and continues today.

    Than is a different matter because of ambiguity. I would not say "She loves him more than me" to mean "She loves him more than I do", but I would still say "He is better than me", never "He is better than I."
  41. koniecswiata Senior Member

    Am English
    Generally, the construction "He is taller than me/I am" or "He drinks more beer than me/I do" belongs to the realm of spoken English not formal written English--already by topic or subject matter.
    In spoken English "...than me" outnumbers "...than I/I do" in discourse, in frequency of utterance (it can be looked up on a corpus). Furthermore, this IS rule governed. It is NOT some kind of bad, ruleless "English" spoken by people who have no idea of grammatical rules. The grammatical rule is quite elegant: In English, if you do not have an overt verb appearing after a pronoun (or noun) use the object form, NOT the subject form. English differs from various European languages in this regard (apparently it is accompanied by French in this tendency). Historically, the study of grammar was the study of Latin. The paradigms of Latin were imposed on English. As a result, the "it's me" construction was marked as "incorrect." In the 18th century the rules that are today seen as traditional, and still (unfortunately, my opinion) applied in Formal Written English were invented, quite artificially actually, so as to create a more "correct kind of English"--well, correct according to Latin sentence structure. This artificiality is the reason that native English speakers over the centuries have never completely adhered to "...than I" or "it's I". It actually seems wrong/strange/stilted to many people for instinctive reasons. The language intuition of the speakers does not quite accept it.
    Furthermore, if you say "I drink beer more than her", no fairly normal person will interpret it as "I drink more beer than I drink her". Outside of grammar, there are semantic rules of comprehension that will keep people from interpreting it that way. So, don't fear, if you say "I drink more beer than her", it will be interpreted as "I drink more beer than she does"--just as you would intend.
  42. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    I used the terms accusative and nominative (a) for simplicity and (b) in an earlier post came out badly scarred after claiming the vocative did not exist - apparently it does (or at least some people believe it does.)

    I also see
    "O King, I gave her it although it was yours."

    In which the nominative, accusative, genitive, vocative and dative can all be seen. It may be that, other than the subjects, the rest is "object case." but this is all semantics1.

    There may be little to visibly differentiate the accusative and dative cases, but that is neither here nor there.

    If you are saying that we don't call these things by these names, then that is a different matter.
    From OED
    from which we see that me is the accusative or dative and all that has happened is someone changed the name of the case.

    I suspect that the rebellion against having English conform to Latin grammar gave rise to the idea of only 2 cases in English. (If so, I think it was an over-reaction.)

    That me, and for that matter similar object case pronouns, has been used for a long time following to be does not alter the argument that I advanced above, "there is ... reason to say that the verb to be takes a complement in the nominative or, in certain circumstances, an object in the accusative." although you may well prefer, "there is ... reason to say that the verb to be takes a complement in the subject case or, in certain circumstances, an object in the object case."

    In both instances it explains "He drinks more than I/me."

    PS I think that your
    is an outstanding example.:thumbsup:

    1 in the non-technical sense of the word.
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2012
  43. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Hi, PaulQ.

    It seems English is the only language in which native speakers tend to use the "wrong" case of the first person singular pronoun on a fairly regular basis. Native Spanish speakers don't have to be taught not to say "Eso es mí" or "Eso es me", native German speakers don't have to be taught not to say "Es ist mich" or "Es ist mir", and French grammar experts would never espouse "C'est je" in contrast to the "C'est moi" that children and adults use with impunity.

    Old English had nominative, dative, genitive, accusative, and instrumental cases, but to me it seems pointless to attempt to read Old English cases into Modern English.

    For example, does it make sense to ask which the is in which case in "the more, the merrier", what case me is in "It was me they warned that a spider lurked", or when me is a name I call myself, is it a vocative? And why don't we say "It am I"?
  44. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    I would venture to say that nobody in England (with the exception of very elderly teachers of grammar) would say he is better than I or he drinks more beer than I. Nowadays, not many people would use these forms even in writing. Really, has any website user ever heard "They drink more beer than we"? The speaker would be laughed out of the pub!

    The use of than as a conjunction has been almost totally overtaken by its use as a preposition, which makes the accusative me/us etc.form entirely correct.

    Usage in America may be different.
  45. Ironicus Senior Member

    English & Swahili - East Africa
    The perfectly natural It's me of English was probably influenced by Norman French C'est moi. I wonder, when thou was still current, did we say "It's thou" or "It's thee?"
  46. koniecswiata Senior Member

    Am English
    I suppose it woud be "it's thee." I don't know if it was influenced by French or not. It could be a "Sprachbund" (an aerial tendency) of NW European languages to use the object case in this way. I don't know what is known of Gaelic or Welsh in this regard. I've heard that Basque (being on the edge of NW Europe) is an ergative language (or has ergative tendencies) which seems to imply that the object form of nouns or pronouns is the base form, and not the nominative form. This use of pronouns in English, of prefering the "object" form (maybe there should be a different term) when there is no verb following the pronoun/noun and making the pronoun the subject seems to imply that the object form is the root or base form, and that the subject form is the "marked" form--i.e. the form only used for the specific use of subjectivizing a verb. Very different from Latin, German, or most other European languages.
  47. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    {moderator note: this is wandering a bit off-topic, but the contraction was usually 'tis, not it's, when thou was still current. ;) }

    Shakespeare has several examples of "'tis I" but no examples of "'tis me". It's not conclusive evidence but it does suggest that "It is I" has been around for several hundred years in modern English.
  48. Pertinax

    Pertinax Senior Member

    Queensland, Aust
    I think that the question of "It's I/me" is a separate issue. The choice of "than me/I" depends on whether the than-clause is understood elliptically.

    Following Lowth 1762 and possibly earlier grammarians, I was taught at school to read:
    (1) He is better than I.
    as short for:
    He is better than I am good.
    This explanation never made the slightest sense to me, since the expanded sentence was quite unintelligible.

    In hindsight, it does actually make some sense, if taken as a special case of something like:
    (2) He is fatter than I am tall.

    But (2) differs from (1) in that it is comparing two clauses, whereas (1) is merely comparing two attributes. (1) might have evolved out of (2), but it can now be read as a distinct and simpler construction. The role of "than" in (1) is just to specify the object of comparison, not to mark some ancient ellipsis. The accusative case of the pronoun follows from the reanalysis of "than" as governing a direct object instead of a clause.

    Similarly it is simpler to read:
    He drinks more beer than me.
    as directly comparing him and me rather than two lots of predicate + subject.

    The word "and" has been subject to similar reanalysis. The colloquial:
    Me and Tom went to the pub and drank beer.
    is not to be understood as an elliptical conjunction of two clauses:
    I went to the pub and drank beer.
    Tom went to the pub and drank beer.
    Rather, the "and" here is operating to turn "Me and Tom" into a pair, and it is the pair that went to the pub and drank beer. Hence the ambivalence in the cases of the pronouns governed by the reanalysed "and".
  49. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    We are all, I think, taught in school to say "than I", and before our school days most if not all of us learned both "than me" and "than I am" from natural speech. I believe there is a reason behind the persistence of all of these forms.

    I agree with Pertinax that a pronoun by itself after than does not have to represent a case of ellipsis, especially not of something like "than I am good", and I daresay not of "than what I am" either. To me, plain "than I" is intelligible but a little awkward, "than I am" sounds much better, and "than am I" sounds less natural than "than I am" but more natural than "than I" with the verb missing.

    But I have no problem considering "than me" as an ellipsis of "than I am". In the environment in which I grew up, people regularly said "me" by itself to refer to themselves, except as the subject of a verb that fit with it, in which case they said "I". (For example "Who's there? Me.", "Does anyone want this hot dog? Me, me, me!", "I call myself 'me'.")

    "Than I am" has a first person singular verb "am" to support the pronoun "I", but "than I" does not, so it sounds awkward, hanging a little too loose. (I would not call it as awkward as que je would be in French because a single vowel by itself is at least pronounceable, but awkward nonetheless.)

    I think some of the reasons for using "me" in spoken English whenever the pronoun has no accompanying verb are the same as the reasons for moi in similar contexts in French, but I think the main reason in French is phonetic while the main reason in English is avoidance of the impression of disconnectedness. This "me" is not exactly a disjunctive, or at least not exactly like a French disjunctive.

    An important reason in both languages is the need for flexibility. Than was once a relative pronoun, but it has become much more flexible— part relative pronoun (the reason "than I am" seems to mean something different from "than what I am"), part relative modifier (relative adverb or adjective), part conjunction, part preposition— while retaining its essential purpose and meaning.

    I don't know how our brains actually work out what a sentence means, but to me a word like than seems to operate in a sort of quantum state of being multiple things at once until we try to explain it using the grammar we learned in school.
  50. جوهرة المجرة New Member

    <<Moderator note: This thread has been merged with an ongoing discussion of the issue.>>

    What is the correct ? and why ?

    * We are much stronger than ( they - them ) .

    * We scored as many goals as ( they - them ) .

    * It isn't for such as ( they - them ) to dictate to us .

    What is the correct in these sentences ( they or them ) ?

    **After (as) and (than) sometimes we use the subject and sometimes we use the object pronouns .

    When we use the subject? and when we use the predicate ?
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 21, 2014

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