A Girl Like I

By Maeve Maddox

A reader writes

I know you have written on this issue before, but I see the problem has arisen even in your latest message. You say “For those of you who, like me, hadn’t heard of SI symbols, you’ll find a list here.”
 
“Like me???”  My husband and I have been arguing over the use of “me and/or I” daily. I would say “like me,” and he says, “like I.” I have a sinking feeling he is grammatically correct.  Answer please?

I wish all grammar questions were as easy to answer as this one.

It’s never, ever correct to say “like I.”

In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe plays a blonde bimbo (what else?)  One of her conversational character tags is “like I?” When the movie came out in 1953, the audience was expected to laugh when she said it.

“Like” is a preposition. Prepositions ALWAYS take an object. The object form of “I” is “me.”

I’m sorry to learn that even one person thinks that “like I” is a grammatical possibility in standard English.

The incorrect use of “I” in compound objects after the preposition “to” has been around for some time now. For example: They were very kind to Michelle and I.

Putting another’s name in front of the pronoun does not change the fact that “to” is a preposition and requires an object form: They were very kind to Michelle and me.

I hope that this incorrect use of “I” after like doesn’t make the strides in popular speech that it has after transitive verbs.

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32 Responses to “A Girl Like I”

  • Gwen

    “Like I” can too be used correctly. For example, that horrible song with equally bad grammar should say “Don’t you wish your girlfriend were hot like I,” because the completed verb phrase would be “…like I am.”

  • Dan

    Most of the above article was very enlightening, I’ve been enjoying these blogs. One thing I didn’t understand: “It’s never, ever correct to say “like I”.
    What is grammatically incorrect about “For those of you who don’t care like I do…” or similar?

  • Daran

    “Like” is a preposition.

    Like is also well established as a conjunction. “Like I” is thus defensible on the grounds that it is the subject of a sentence whose predicate has been elided.

    Nobody can dance like he (does).

    It sounds horribly unidiomatic, though, if the verb is elided.

  • Brad K.

    Daran, oh, that is evil. So you contend that there is an implied “do” or “can” after the “like I”. *shudder*

    Oh, that . . . no. You may rest content, yet for me and my house, we will . . . uh, use “me” where appropriate to what is actually *there*.

  • Michael Batey

    I’m not sure it’s ‘defensible’, Daran, but it does go some way to explaining how this arises after ‘like’ – the vague feeling that a verb should be coming along at some point makes the object convulse into a subject.

    The wider problem of ‘…and I’ is down to hypercorrection: schoolchildren have had it drummed into them for so long that ‘Jonny and I’ went to the shop, not ‘Jonny and me’, that ‘Dad took Jonny and me to the shop’ sounds somehow wrong to the unenlightened. For those of us who wince every time they hear this usage, everday conversation can be something of a trial.

  • Vic

    I always thought that with the word “like” there is an implied ending. Clearly, if you say “a girl like I,” the word “am” is implied. If it’s not implied, then it would seem that “me” would be the correct word. What if we substituted the words “similar to” for “like”? Then it would be “a girl similar to me.” Or would it? It seems logical because the word “to” creates an object and not a subject. In “a girl like I,” which is the subject, and which is the object? It seems like “girl” is the object, so wouldn’t this make “me” the logical choice as the object?

  • Chad

    As an ESL teacher, I come across this situation whenever we get to comparatives. Sentences with “like” are similar to sentences with “than” and I usually explain that you can use the subect pronoun ONLY if the auxiliary verbs and modals are explicitly included. That means you can say “She is taller than me” or “She is taller than I am” but “She is taller than I” is awkward and should be avoided. In the example given in the post, there are no auxiliaries or modals after the demostrative pronoun “who,” making “like I” an impossibility.

  • Sally

    I thought I understood this issue, but now I know I don’t.

    Although I’m a professional writer, it comes by way of a family gift rather than my ability to understand the intricacies of the language. I couldn’t determine the parts of speech in a sentence even if someone dangled a large sum of money in front of me.

    That being said, I always thought that by adding another ‘obvious’ word that might appear in the sentence, I could ‘test’ whether the correct word was ‘me’ or’ I’.

    So for me, the test for the sentence in the reader’s question would be to add the word ‘am’, making the phrase ‘like I (am)’, because one wouldn’t say ‘like me am’. My ‘test’ for the other example would be to eliminate “Michelle’ from the sentence making it ‘They were very kind to ME’ (because I wouldn’t say ‘They were very kind to I’).

    Actually, now that I think about it, I believe I may have learned that in school (U.S.) many years ago. Hmm…..

  • Sally

    (interesting…as I was writing my comment and before I pushed ‘submit’, two others wrote similar posts in which they ‘tested’ the alternatives…wonder if they were educated in the U.S….)

  • Rod

    I wasn’t educated in the U.S, That’s why I’ve got this stupid question; Is it ok to say you and me at the beginning of a sentence?
    it’s commonly heard but I think it should be you and I

  • tgrillo

    In your example, Rod, to determine if it is you and me or you and I – leave off the you and see which one is correct.
    You and I went to the concert. (I went to the concert.)
    You and me went to the concert. (Me went to the concert.)
    You and I is correct.

  • Rod

    Cool thanks tgrillo very kind of you to reply

  • Sarah

    I have never heard of ‘like I’ in any sentence. ‘You and I’ on the other hand is only possible for certain sentence structure but I can’t remember the exact rule. Have to dig in the old study materials again.

  • Maeve

    I just hate it when I fail to close the loop holes!

    Yes, “like” can also be used as a conjunction, but this post is about “like” as a preposition.

    “Like” as a preposition can never be followed by “I.”

    As for sentences that contain missing words, I tend to agree with Brad K. that if it isn’t there, I’m not going to worry about it.

  • Hassan

    I’ve been looking for writing well enough to impress someone but yet not succeeded,no wonder why?

  • Daran

    I’ve been looking for writing well enough to impress someone but yet not succeeded,no wonder why?

    This is ungrammatical. “For” is a preposition which must be followed by a noun. “writing” can be a noun, but “well” is an adverb and so can’t be used to describe ir.

    You could say “I’ve been looking for writing good enough to impress someone…”, That’s grammatical and meaningful. I recommend seeking out some Shakespeare, whose writing is good enough to impress most people.

    I suspect, however, that you meant something different: “I’ve been looking for a way to write well enough to impress someone”, if you have someone specific in mind, or “…well enough to impress people” if you want to impress people generally.

  • Daran

    By the way, Hassan, despite arguing above that the usage is “defensible”, I recommend that you avoid using “like” as a conjunction. It’s very likely that you will write something which sounds uneducated or to native speakers if you do.

  • Daran

    ‘You and I’ on the other hand is only possible for certain sentence
    structure but I can’t remember the exact rule.

    It’s actually very easy for native speakers to get this right. “You and I” = “we”. “You and me” = “us”. See which of “me” and “us” sounds right in the sentence you are trying to use.

  • Brad K.

    Hassan,

    There are two ways to go about impressing someone. One is to create a perception that you are memorable and astounding.

    The other is to master the basics, the fundamental skills and rules, and then master the advanced skills. Then to go on to do amazing work in your chosen craft.

    Marketing and advertising often have a dodgy reputation because they focus on creating a quick-and-dirty perception, hook the target, make the sale – and move on to the next target, ignoring any implied promises to the customer. When trying to impress a mate, a family, or someone at work, it is better to claim only what you have mastered – because that is what you can deliver every time.

    Learning to converse in English is a lifetime of learning. As we encounter new situations, new communities, we find new modes of expression, from ebonics to text messaging, to learn. There are always new applications of the formal rules as well as jargon pertinent to certain communities, tasks, or professions, that leak into the mainstream and become something for everyone to learn.

    Like many skills, it is tempting to look at a nearly-finished piece, and want to learn to fix the flaws. What works better is to start with the basic rules from grade school kinds of instruction. Learn the fundamentals, so that the specific rules and exceptions make more sense. Work on developing your vocabulary – not just the spelling of words, but the meanings, and the various rules for using them in sentences in different ways.

    When you are confident in your mastery of your craft, you won’t worry nearly as much about making a good impression.

  • H.Raza

    Actually,i am not a good writer because english is not my mother tongue. But i want you people make me perfect writer by putting out my mistakes.
    I wanna send an email to somebody.Please do correct it.email starts here,
    Hi,
    Now my ocean of words is getting dried up,I am really impressed with your work and personality,the way you smile really stunned my vision to concentrate at last you end up smiling.I am really touched and flattered.By the way i’d appreciate that if you’ll read this,that really makes me wonderful after reading my email by you.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    @ Sally: I learned the same thing in Grade 3, in the US. Testing alternatives to a sentence. So maybe that IS where you learned it.

  • Sally

    Raza,
    E-mail me privately, and I will be glad to help you.

    sjcolby@embarqmail.com

  • Cassie Tuttle

    A related question that gets a lot of debate:

    “It is I” or “It is me” – which is correct and why?

    (For example: “Who’s at the door?” “It is I” or “It is me.”?)

    Again, there’s the implied or missing language. Or is there?

    Your thoughts?

  • Chad

    I’ve been taught that technically, “It is I” is correct, but most people say “It is me,” or so dictates my experience. I can’t really tell you why, maybe someone else can chime in here, but in Germany, the answer is “ich bin’s” which means “I am it.”

    Also, the old joke, a woman dies and knocks on the gates of heaven. A voice thunders from within: “Who is knocking at the gate?” and the woman answers, “It is I.” The voice replies, “Ah, another English teacher.”

  • Brad K.

    Thinking about testing, “it is I” or “it is me”, I think an alternate expression would be “I am”. “Me a” or “Me is” just doesn’t seem to flow nicely. “Me!”, though, would work.

    I have an issue with people that place a phone call, or answer a call, without identifying themselves. You are supposed to “know”, or recognize the voice. I consider this rude.

    *Knock, knock* – “Who is there?”

    “It is I”, “Me”, “I am” – all are rude. None of them answer the question asked – what is the identity, in the perspective of the person asking, of the caller. We can all presume that whoever calls or knocks understands who the heck they are. If they were being at all communicative and respectful, they would answer in terms of familiar or familial name “John-boy”, if sufficiently unique in the local community and a frequent caller, or “John Smith”. An official call or visit should state the identity of the organization and the representative’s name. “Ponca City Police, officer Smith” with a “Sir” or Ma,am”, depending on who demands identification.

    “It is I”, with no further explanation, is a prank, a joke, and lacks respect for the question and the one asking the question.

    “Me, Fritz Gruberman”, or “It is I, your long lost sister’s adopted son, lost when captured by the enemy in Korea since 1951, returned after being located by a secret CIA mission to the local Opium and nuclear arms dealer that was holding me captive” (I made that part up.), though would be a respectful answer, as long as you were truthful and concise while fully answering the question to establish the identity of the caller. And no one runs sentences together.

  • Cassie Tuttle

    Chad! Love that old joke – I’d forgotten about that one. 😀

    Oh, Brad K., I appreciate your thoughts. But I didn’t mean for it to be a difficult question.

    In everyday use, for example, when I leave a voice message for my significant other on his cell phone, I wonder if it’s grammatically correct to say, “Hi, it’s me.” (Or is the other construction grammatically correct: “Hi, it is I.”?)

    Of course, the earth isn’t going to stop rotating if I don’t leave a grammatically correct phone message for my SO. LOL! I’m just curious about this one.

  • Maeve

    I did a post on the “It is I/It is me” issue not too long ago:

    http://www.dailywritingtips.com/its-me-vs-it-is-i/

  • Rod

    Is it me? or these guys make a mountain out of a mole hole

  • Tony Hearn

    ‘Making a mountain out of a mole hill’ is what we say here in England. That’s what we call the little excavations the creatures leave in lawns and fields. (Do you have moles Stateside?)

    As to ‘It is I/me’: whatever the purists say, current idiomatic English on both sides of the Atlantic is ‘It is me’, or, more likely, ‘It’s me’. Here ‘me’ is what grammarians call a ‘disjunctive pronoun’ if you want to impress/bore your audience. Similarly ‘It’s/ was her/us/them’. I remember being taught the propriety of ‘It is I’ at school, and I know that Judas says ‘Is it I, Lord?, at the last supper, but nowadays this sounds, surely, pretentious or pompous or both, and certainly unidiomatic.

  • Maeve Maddox

    Tony,
    Yes, we have moles over here. I have them so bad this summer that to walk in my garden is like walking on moist sponges.

    As for “mole hole,” Rod’s comment inspired this DWT post:

    http://www.dailywritingtips.com/making-a-mountain-out-of-a-molehill/

  • connie

    “…like I do” makes sense, right?

  • Judy Boyer

    The problem with using “like I” is not the I, but the like. Like isn’t a conjunction “as” is. So, a sentence should read, ” He is as much of a gentleman as I.” Problem? Sadly, no one in this century speaks that way.

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