I/me, he/him: Than me or than I?; than him or than he?; etc, etc

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Outsider, Apr 14, 2005.

  1. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I know that after a preposition one should use "him", not "he", but I never know whether the comparative word "than" is considered a preposition. So, should I say: "I am older than him" or "I am older than he"? :confused:

    A third sentence, just to muddy the waters: "I am older than he is". I think this one is right.
  2. Rebecca Hendry

    Rebecca Hendry Senior Member

    United Kingdom - English
    You should say "I am older than him". :tick:

    "I am older than he" is not correct. :cross:

    "I am older than he is" is absolutely fine too. :tick:
  3. gotitadeleche Senior Member

    Texas, U.S.A.
    U.S.A. English

    Rebecca, Are you sure of this? Although "older than him" is commonly used, I think it is actually incorrect. I don't have access to my grammar books right now to check, but I believe that "older than he" is just a shorter way of saying "older than he is" and is the correct way of saying it.

    "That girl is taller than her." :cross:
    "That girl is taller than she (is tall)" :tick:

    This is how I remember learning it.
  4. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    I also though like you gotitadeleche and it seems to me it is correct to say "That girl is taller than she (is tall)" :confused:
  5. suzzzenn Senior Member

    New York
    USA English

    I think, once again, we are looking at a good example of where the formal rule differs from common usage. In formal English, the subject pronoun follows than. In common usage, many (if not most) English speakers use the object pronoun.

    :tick: I am older than he. (correct formal usage)
    :tick: I am older than him (common informal usage)

    Strictly speaking the second one is not considered to be correct by the grammar police. I personally always say "older than him", "older than he" doesn't feel right.

  6. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Thanks to all that have replied so far. :thumbsup:
    What is the grammatical classification of the word "than" in those sentences, by the way?
  7. languageGuy Senior Member

    Kansas City, MO
    USA and English
    "Than" is a subordinating conjunction, introducing an adverbial clause.

    The two members of the comparison are most commonly of the same grammatical form. In your example, two clauses (the latter of which may be contracted in various ways). Also common two substantives, two pronouns, two infinitives, two adjectives, two adverbs, etc.
  8. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Thank you very much! :)
    So, if I understand well, "I am older than he" is considered preferable in traditional grammar because this sentence is understood as a short form of "I am older than he is", right?

    "I am older than he" = "I am older than he (is)."
  9. languageGuy Senior Member

    Kansas City, MO
    USA and English
    That is correct.
  10. suzzzenn Senior Member

    New York
    USA English
    Thank you very much! :)
    So, if I understand well, "I am older than he" is considered preferable in traditional grammar because this sentence is understood as a short form of "I am older than he is", right?

    "I am older than he" = "I am older than he (is)."

    Hi Outsider,
    Right! The shortened form is what causes the problem. Because complementizers, or subordinating conjunctions, introduce clauses, when the verb is removed, it feels wrong. Speakers analyze than as a preposition (which it is not) and use the object pronoun.

  11. dindon New Member

    Canada, English
    <<Moderator Note:
    This thread consists of three threads on the same topic that have been merged.
    The first: "More ___ than me" or "More ___ than I"? from August 2005 starts here.
    The second: "You and me" or "you and I"?? from May 2006 starts at post #79.
    The third: Need smart answer from July 2006 starts at post #102.

    As you can see, there is a great deal of discussion on this apparently simple topic.
    Good luck to all who venture further:)


    This is just something that I have been curious about. If you are comparing two things, for example, if you are saying "John is more serious than [first person pronoun]" would the first person pronoun be 'I' or 'me'?

    My mother, and English teacher, insists that it should be 'I', her logic being that at the end of the sentence there is an implied part: "John is more serious than I [am]."

    To me, this sounds strange, and I have never heard it said this way. Anyone know who is right?
  12. Gordonedi

    Gordonedi Senior Member

    UK (Scotland) English
    I agree with your Mother and English teacher. In the sentence you quote, the "am" is implied, which dictates that the pronoun be "I" and not "me".

    You're correct too, though. It does sound strange, and in general conversational usage the word would be "me".

    Compare the three sentences :
    "John is better than I am at painting."
    "John is better than I at painting."
    "John is better than me at painting."

    To my ear, versions 1 and 3 sound OK, but 2 is definitely out. Perhaps the "rule" only applies at the end of a sentence.

  13. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I am not convinced.

    Would you say that John is bigger than I?
    I definitely wouldn't.
    So why should I say that John is better than I, or John is more serious than I.
    For the moment, until unless someone proves us both wrong, I'm with dindon.

    By the way, welcome to WordReference, dindon.
  14. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    "to be", when viewed under the rules of Latin grammar, is a copular verb which you can think of as an equals sign. So it equates subject with subject, and object with object.

    So according to this rule you should say

    John (subject) is bigger than I (subject).
    John hits Paul (object) harder than me (objecet) (= harder than John hits me)
    John (subject) hits Paul more than I (subject) (= more than I hit Paul)

    However this "rule" is constantly broken in English where we use "me" as a disjunctive form (ie the form used after a proposition (from me), or a "pointing form" (eg "it was John, Dave and me)).

    So I would say that your mother and teacher are correct if they believe it is relevant to analyse the grammar of English under the framework of Latin. If they believe this is unreasonable, and it is more important to give it its own framework which reflects usage then I would say they are wrong.

    Pan - I don't think that "John is bigger than I" sounds any worse (or indeed better) than "John is better than I". Both would be considered correct under this traditional view, and both would be royally ignored by the majority of English speakers.:)
  15. GenJen54

    GenJen54 Senior Member

    Downright Pleasant, USA
    USA - English
    I found the following from the Rutgers "Andromeda" English Grammar Website and The Guide to Grammar and Style by Jack Lynch.

    It's the quickest substitution I could find since my style books and old ESL text books are in storage. Let the debate begin...

    Than I versus Than Me.

    Than, as used in comparatives, has traditionally been considered a conjunction; as such, if you're comparing subjects, the pronouns after than should take the "subjective case." In other words, "He's taller than I," not "He's taller than me"; "She's smarter than he," not "She's smarter than him." If, on the other hand, you're comparing direct or indirect objects, the pronouns should be objective: "I've never worked with a more difficult client than him."

    There are some advantages to this traditional state of affairs. If you observe this distinction, you can be more precise in some comparisons. Consider these two sentences:
    • He has more friends than I. (His total number of friends is higher than my total number of friends.)
    • He has more friends than me. (I'm not his only friend; he has others.)
    The problem, though, is that in all but the most formal contexts, "than I" sounds stuffy, even unidiomatic. Most people, in most contexts, treat than as a preposition, and put all following pronouns in the objective case, whether the things being compared are subjects or objects. "He's taller than me" sounds more natural to most native English speakers.

    (Mods, please let me know if this is inappropriate and I will gladly remove it and/or paraphrase the text to fit the WR formats.) :eek:
  16. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Point of information.
    I think you will find that dindon's mother is his teacher. Certainly that is implied by his very careful punctuation
    Umm.. ducking the point of the thread for the moment. Still not convinced.
  17. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    Well I apologise and so do I (so do me?).
  18. lsp

    lsp Senior Member

    US, English
    What a genuine surprise. I vote for "I" and it doesn't sound odd to me. I thought I'd read a slew of posts saying the same. Those examples you all opted for with "me" sound odd. I must have been taught by the same person who taught dindon's mom, or dindon and I were switched at birth. :eek:
  19. aryngabriel New Member

    Eau Claire, WI
    United States
    I also agree and cast a vote for "I". It doesn't sound funny to me, but as one of the other replies pointed out, at least in AE, it could sound a bit stuffy.
  20. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I am still not convinced.
    I simply cannot hear myself ever saying:
    "John is bigger than I."
    "Bill is better than I."
    "Jennifer is prettier than I."
    "Amy has curlier hair than I."
    This is just not going to happen in the real world - is it?

    So, either we get around the problem (if we feel it to be a problem) by changing the structure of the sentence, or we say the entirely normal versions of these sentences that end with "... than me."

    But this is WRONG!

    Without thinking too hard, I suggest that I resolve this by not using any construction like this in writing, but I happily use the conventionally-accepted incorrect version in speech.
  21. Nick

    Nick Senior Member

    Western USA
    USA, English
    Just add the verb onto the end. Heck, add the verb in the middle even! It really doesn't make it any longer.
    He's taller than I am.
    I'm quicker than she is.
    We go much more often than they do to the train station.
    Old Mrs. Gribb longs to be as young as I am.

    But what about this? Is it correct with "me"? You can't say "I am", so could "I" really be correct?
    Sarah wishes she were younger than me.
  22. Aupick

    Aupick Senior Member

    Strasbourg, France
    UK, English
    Ah, it's a funny world. I grew up being rapped over the knuckles for saying things like 'Me and Dan are going to the shops.' I thought it was a universal tendency for English speakers to want to replace 'I' with 'me' in such cases. I thought 'Dan and I' and 'you and I' type structures always sounded stuffy, even if they are correct.

    Then I went and lived in the US for a few years where I noticed, first, that Americans don't say 'Dan and me' and 'you and me' instead of 'Dan and I' and 'you and I', so they must be more in touch with their grammar than Brits; and, second, that they tend to say 'Dan and I' and 'you and I' where they should say 'Dan and me' and 'you and me', so they're not grammar gods after all. I've often heard Americans say, for example, 'Between you and I, I think he's nuts' or 'For you and I sitting here that's easy to say'. I've even heard 'Then we'll go over to Mike and I's house and grab a bite to eat' (name changed to protect identity).

    So I think ideas about what sounds stuffy and what might be said are yet another thing that varies across the Atlantic.
  23. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    Judging from the above we have a clear AE/BE split with "I" being viewed as normal, if perhaps a bit stuffy in AE, and certainly stuffy if not a plain assault on the ears in BE.

    Pan - I am a bit surprised by the "But this is WRONG!" from you - that's rather prescriptive.

    It is neither right or wrong, it just is. It is certainly "wrong" if you use Latin rules to analyse English. However, if you like to have a rule to peg the usage on you can just view it as a disjunctive pronoun (the vocative, or as I like to say the "pointing" form).

    Aupick - yes it drives me up the wall (inside, outside I am an oasis of calm;) ) when I hear phrases like "between you and I". To me it just sounds like people who are pedantic enough to care about not saying "me" when Latin wouldn't like it, but ill-informed enough not to know when it should and should not be used.

    Oh- I seem to have woken up in a bit of a bad mood - better go and think happy thoughts for a bit...
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 17, 2012
  24. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I have been puzzled by this.
    I can't hear myself say "He is taller than her."
    I can't hear myself say "He is taller than she," either.
    And why does this discussion seem to be covering very unfamiliar ground?
    After much thought, and reading these posts, I have come up with two points.
    (1) I think I complete the sentences - even in normal conversation. (Thanks Nick - your suggestion) For example, I would say "He is taller than she is." But would I say "Bill is uglier than I am"? Probably not. I think I would probably lapse into "..uglier than me.":eek:
    (2) The use of "me" in sentences such as "John is more serious than me," is so common that it runs through my ear smoothly, whereas the uncommon, "John is more serious than I," sounds clunky.

    Sorry, I was mulling over this while others were posting....

    Another apology - I meant, when I wrote that, "But to my surprise, everyone here says this is wrong!"
  25. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    Ah OK! I thought it was a surprising thing for you to say.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 17, 2012
  26. Nick

    Nick Senior Member

    Western USA
    USA, English
    Completely agreed.

    We'll never switch to using I, just like we'll never switch to the metric system.
  27. duder Senior Member

    I agree with this, Nick. "He is taller than I" sounds a little strange to me even though I am familiar with the reasoning behind it, and once you get past the first person forms, the subject pronouns sound even stranger (for example, I find "He is taller than she" just plain odd). "He is taller than me" is definitely more acceptable, but I usually just add the appropriate verb.

    And now, a little chuckle with this I/me usage:
  28. I believe English speakers use "me" in these comparisons because the "than" feels as if it should force the objective case -- even though it's really being used as a conjunction. This is a instance (and not a unique one) in which the language is evolving away from a strict grammatical usage and there's really nothing any of us can do about it. For people learning English it's just an exception that must be learned. As I say, all this is only my opinion.
  29. Eugens

    Eugens Senior Member

    Argentina Spanish
    I found this sentence in a text that is an example of the ones given in the FCE examinations:
    "Many of them are in the same situation as me, so we have lots to talk about."

    Shouldn't it be in this sentence too:"Many of them are in the same situation as I (am)"? Is the meaning of the sentence modified when the case of the pronoun is changed, here as well?
  30. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    10 Goto message 13, paragraph 3
    20 Read message
    30 Goto next message
    40 If message = 30, stop
    50 Goto 20

    (just had an introductory course to visual basic - not very good at it yet!!;) )
  31. Eugens

    Eugens Senior Member

    Argentina Spanish
    Ok. Sorry.:eek: (Don't get angry!) I just wanted to check whether it happened the same with "as". So, by what I understand the two forms are correct and they mean the same. (?)
  32. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    I'm not getting angry Eugens, just having a joke!! Sorry, I probably should have put a smiley with the message. Here have 3!:) :) :)

  33. Eugens

    Eugens Senior Member

    Argentina Spanish
    Oh! That's a relief!!!:) Thanks for everything, Tim!
  34. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    In answer to your question - I think that both forms are fine, and that you are likely to hear the "me" form more often. However, there is a not-insignificant body of people who believe that the "me" form is wrong. If you are writing an exam, and have a pedantic teacher for example, you may wish to avoid it. No, scrap that - Don't let the fascists get you down, brother - stick to the "me" form!;)
  35. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    When it comes to grammar, you are all smarter than me.
    Sounds ordinary and correct.

    When it comes to grammar, you are all smarter than I.
    This sounds stilted and contorted and flat out ridiculous!


    She is bigger than me... Ok, average, no issues.

    She is bigger than I.... Sounds very formal but not incorrect or awkward. It's sufficiently uncommon in everyday speech that I would notice it.

    It's not a BE/AE think, I think...Popular usage is the same, preferring me, while we differ slightly in how formal and odd we perceive I to be.

    Can anyone tell me why the "I" form seems ok in some contexts, and so strange in others?
  36. modgirl Senior Member

    USA English, French, Russian
    You are all smarter than me am.

    That's why "me" is wrong (but used very colloquially!)

    Again, the wrong grammar is used so often that the correct grammar seems wrong. Sigh.....
  37. modgirl Senior Member

    USA English, French, Russian
    Sure, it's all a matter of what we're using to hearing. For someone who grew up hearing Coca-Cola referred to as soda, hearing it called pop sounds strange. And vice versa.
  38. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    Not becoming, always was -

    ANGELO Charges she more than me?
    Measure for Measure, W Shakespeare.
  39. Jad Senior Member

    UK, English
    Gosh well that makes me wonder how the other rule came about at all then!
  40. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    Me too mate! (I also old chum?;) )

    That really is a topic for a new thread, and I can think of many reasons, but I think the most likely is that Latin was for a long time held in huge esteem, and so it was assumed that any usages that were more like how Latin worked were in some way "better".
  41. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I feel another recapitulation of my rules statement coming on.
    Unfortunately, I have no idea where I left it the last time.
    In summary, it said that the apparent rules of English grammar are not rules at all. They are a simplified codification of what was at one time the accepted manner of speech. Being simplified, they did not allow for lots of exceptions that were entirely acceptable.
    These simplified rules worked their merry way through an increasingly didactic education system until pedants everywhere insisted that they were the one and only true faith for the English language.
    BE-speakers are freeing themselves from all the inhibitions that these apparent rules created. But it is still very difficult for non-natives to understand how we can break what appear to be rules with such gay abandon.
    To which I replied once, or possibly twice before, that there is no problem. Follow those rules as guidance until you have been reading and writing English to an acceptable standard for about 25 years. Then you can forget all the rules:)

    I wonder where I put the last version of this:D
  42. modgirl Senior Member

    USA English, French, Russian
    Shakespeare also said, "Woe is me," which is completely wrong grammatically! In fact, an author even wrote a book entitled "Woe is I" about grammar and usage, which are not interchangeable terms.
  43. modgirl Senior Member

    USA English, French, Russian
    In spoken colloquial English, it is frequently used. However, for any serious writing, I'd stay away from it.
  44. SusieQ Senior Member

    Español but I can read, write, speak and understand English very well
    At the moment I do not have any of my grammar books with me, but as I remember from all my grammar lessons, both ways are correct. It just depends on the context and what you are trying to say:

    He speaks to her more than me. (Here I am saying that he does not speak to me as much as he speaks to her).
    He speaks to her more than I. (Here I am saying that I do not speak to her as much as he speaks to her).

    See the difference? You can say it both ways but it means two different things.

    When I get home I will look for my grammar books to find the rule used by our teacher, but as it all, it varies from place to place.
  45. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    I don't think it is wrong grammatically. To tell you the truth I don't even know what you mean by "it is wrong grammatically". There is no absolute truth about grammar, just usages that are generally accepted or not. You can say "this is wrong legally" because it breaks a law (whether or not you agree with that law is beside the point). There are no grammatical absolutes that a sentence has to adhere to.

    In all seriousness, I think "woe is me" is fine. Personally I view "me" as the disjunctive form of I, and so quite the right word to use here. It is obviously a flowery phrase in the first place, but "woe is me" seems to me as correct as "woe is Paul" and much better than "woe is I" (surely this would be "woe am I" in any case).
  46. modgirl Senior Member

    USA English, French, Russian
    I certainly respect your opinion, but I think you'll be hard-pressed to find English professors and professional writers who agree with you.

    Usage is literally how we use the language. Grammar is a set of rules that are used to construct sentences. There are rules of grammar. But, like much of society, the rules certainly change. I could say, "Me no like apples," and if everyone around me started adopting that style, then it would be colloquial usage. However, me is an object pronoun, not a subject pronoun. Thus, my sentence is grammatically incorrect according to the current rules.

    "Woe is me" uses a linking verb, so the pronoun used should be a subject pronoun. That is correct grammar. However, as it has been discussed, that isn't always the case for actual usage.

    E.g. This is she. (She is it) One would (hopefully!) never say Her is it (it is her).
  47. Tisia Senior Member

    Iran, Persian, Kurdish, English, Finnish
    Dear grammar says:

    In writing:
    John is taller than I am.

    But orally:
    John is taller than me.
  48. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    But modgirl, you say there are "rules of grammar" and yes there are, but they are not like rules of law as you yourself say they are in constant flux, they are more like "personal preferences of grammar". Why do you think that a linking verb should take a subject? It doesn't in French for example so by "that is correct grammar" you mean "that is correct grammar according to some person". If enough people started saying "me no like apples" then you would simply say that "me" had become a subject pronoun.

    Now it is certainly a different issue, and an important consideration to say "if you say "it was me" instead of "it was I" in a business letter then the person reading it may not be impressed". However saying "it was I" is no more correct than "it was me" than "wearing a suit" is more correct than "wearing jeans".
  49. modgirl Senior Member

    USA English, French, Russian
    If this will help, page 147 of the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, says:

    "Grammar consists of the rules governing how words are put together into sentences. These rules, which native speakers of a language learn largely by osmosis, govern most constructions in a given language. The small minority of constructions that lie outside these rules fall mostly into the category of idiom and usage."
  50. modgirl Senior Member

    USA English, French, Russian
    An object receives the action.

    Give the book to me.

    A linking verb gives a state of being as opposed to an action.

    The caller was he. He was the caller. There is no action being received. Linking verbs usually describe something or someone.

    This isn't a great site, but it explains how to choose an object or subject pronoun:


    If you have an academic source that states it's okay to use an object pronoun as a subject, I would be very interested to see it.

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