"than I" vs. "than me"

13

8

  1. Between you and me Suhani is intelligent.

  2. Neither he nor his brother can walk faster than me.

  3. Whom did you mean to hurt by your unkind remarks except Sita and me?

In these sentence book uses me (objective form of I). But I find one more sentence from book which uses I(not me).

  1. Your husband doesn't believe that you are older than I.

In sentence 2 after preposition than it uses me while in sentence 4 its uses I after than. why? I think there should be I(instead of me) in sentence 3 and me(instead of I) in sentence 4. But i know I am wrong. I am confused with use of me and I. So please help me to understand this.

starun008

Posted 2014-12-22T11:06:32.723

Reputation: 1 625

Question was closed 2016-01-16T23:40:27.367

3Just between you and *I*, you should look into a decent usage dictionary to find the info that you are looking for, e.g. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage (MWDEU). You'll be interested in such entries as "than", and "between you and I". There are also many threads on grammar sites related to the questions that you are asking--some of there answers are reasonable, and many are ridiculously wrong. You should first rely on a decent usage dictionary, such as MWDEU. :) – F.E. – 2014-12-22T19:18:40.803

1Also, you shouldn't so quickly accept an answer. Wait at least a day so more people can see your question and respond. You'd want to encourage native English speakers to answer your questions, but if you've already accepted an answer, then they might not wish to spend their time to do so (as they might feel like they might be wasting their time). – F.E. – 2014-12-22T19:20:58.383

1@F.E. In the first phrase of your first comment, why did you wrote 'between you and I'? 'Between' is a preposition (and never a conjunction) and so requires an object pronoun, so 'between you and me'? – AYX.CLDR – 2015-02-15T15:56:18.340

1@LawArea51Proposal-Commit Actually, F.E. was joking (hence the bold-italic *I*). Saying "between you and I" is a common error in English. Linguists call it "hypercorrection": the words that come naturally to you ("between you and me") are correct, but the influence of a rule you were taught leads you to change it, and consequently you make an error. (This is a nice illustration of how learning rules is not the same as learning language.) – Ben Kovitz – 2015-02-15T17:17:11.420

@LawArea51Proposal-Commit I did that on purpose to show that that kind of usage is grammatical and is standard English. A decent usage dictionary, such as Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage (MWDEU), will usually discuss exactly that specific type of usage. – F.E. – 2015-02-15T19:03:21.737

@BenKovitz Er, no. I did that on purpose to show that that kind of usage ("between you and I") is grammatical and is standard English. That is, that kind of usage is not an error. A decent usage dictionary, such as MWDEU, will usually discuss that specific type of usage. – F.E. – 2015-02-15T19:06:46.970

@BenKovitz Thank you for your response! I acknowledge your other answers but please allow me some time to ponder over them. I see the difference in opinion here regarding this usage so I'll continue to monitor this question. – AYX.CLDR – 2015-02-15T19:32:42.497

@F.E. Well, I stand corrected! Or perhaps hypercorrected… :) – Ben Kovitz – 2015-02-15T22:12:00.930

Answers

6

While all the other answers seem to focus on why it's than I or than me, I don't think this helps most people in everyday life such as in a conversation—they seem a little difficult to be used on the fly.

In a sentence, some words are often omitted, and the trick is not to do that. Just make the sentence as long as possible, and you'll see it's actually quite easy:


Than I / he / she:

He is better than I (am).

She is taller than he (is).

He knows more than she (knows).

Note: this may sound a little formal to some.


Than me / him / her:

She'd rather choose her than (she'll choose) me.

I like her more than (I like) him.

I'm more likely to give him a reward, than (I'll give it to) her.

Jeffrey Roosendaal

Posted 2014-12-22T11:06:32.723

Reputation: 184

Hi,sir, why do you use 'I like her more than (I like) him' instead of 'I like her more than (that I like) him'? I see that you use 'than that' in the two other examples. – 尤慕李 – 2018-07-16T01:03:42.560

@尤慕李 Hi. I don’t know actually, never noticed it though. Thanks for telling. I’ve removed the thats to make make it more consistent. – Jeffrey Roosendaal – 2018-07-16T15:17:45.077

9

Native speakers have been arguing about this for centuries. There are two schools of thought.

The conjunction theory

The conjunction theory, most famously advocated by Robert Lowth (1710–1787), claims that than is a conjunction that introduces a new clause with its own subject. So, you say:

He can walk faster than I can walk.

For brevity, you can omit the repeated can walk:

He can walk faster than I.

Since I is the subject of the omitted verb, it should be in the subjective case. Therefore the objective case, as in "He can walk faster than me," is nonsense, quod erat demonstrandum.

The preposition theory

The preposition theory says that than can serve as a conjunction or as a preposition, whichever you need. When used as a preposition, its object naturally takes the objective case:

He can walk faster than me.

The arguments

As far as I know, no blood has ever been spilled over this dispute, but it has been surprisingly acrimonious.

Advocates of the conjunction theory claim that logic is on their side, as well as prior usage such as the phrase holier than thou, which appears in the King James Bible. One argument in favor of the conjunction theory is that the choice of subjective or objective case makes a useful distinction if than is always regarded as a conjunction. For example, “Priya likes chapatis more than I” is short for “Priya likes chapatis more than I like chapatis” while “Priya likes chapatis more than me” is short for “Priya likes chapatis more than she likes me.”

Advocates of the preposition theory claim that logic is on their side, as well as convenience and prior usage in such authoritative writers as Shakespeare and Samuel Johnson (see the Wikipedia article or a book on grammar myths).

Advocates of the preposition theory like to point out that the same people who advocate the conjunction theory also advocate other grammar myths such as the “rule” against ending a sentence with a preposition and the “rule” against splitting an infinitive. Perhaps this is an ad hominem fallacy, and perhaps it’s an insight into something very misguided deep in the minds of the conjunction-theory advocates.

You must take sides

Since you are learning English as a foreign language, you probably would prefer to stay out of a debate about such a small point of grammar, affecting only about six words in the entire language. Sorry, that is not an option. You must choose a side. Once you say faster than I or faster than me, everyone will know which side you're on. The room will turn silent. People will look at each other with knowing glances. Friends who favor the other side will probably shun you for life when they find out. Friends who favor the side you've chosen will feel a new and enriched bond of loyalty to you.*

Let me close, then, by mentioning that I favor the preposition theory, and so should you.


* Don’t think you can weasel out of this by always spelling out the implied clause explicitly. That will avoid making a choice, but you’ll soon find it verbose and tiresome. And no one likes a waffler.

Ben Kovitz

Posted 2014-12-22T11:06:32.723

Reputation: 25 752

1You, sir, are a braver man than I! – Jim MacKenzie – 2017-06-15T23:07:29.963

1So well put. And a hoot, to boot! – Brian Hitchcock – 2015-02-16T06:27:49.523

2

Well, I will start with some basics instead of delving into the main point straight away.

There are some words in English Vocabulary that can act like a preposition as well as a conjunction.

After a preposition grammar insists that we use the objective form, for example me (Objective form of I)

Stop chasing after me.

And after a conjunction, we should have a whole clause. Basically the function of a conjunction is to connect two or more clauses, sentences and words.

You and I are from the same generation.

It was written by me and him.

Note - If you are not sure which form of pronoun (objective or subjective), please use the pronoun on its own with the conjunction removed. And you will find the correct form to be used. For example in the sentence - It was written by him and me - if you are unsure whether to use "me" or "I" after "and", please remove "and", and the sentence will come down to "It was written by me", not "It was written by I". So the correct form to use after "and" here in this case is "me".

Ours dresses are the same except mine is red. (Here the conjunction except joins a clause - mine is red)

The words - except and than - both can be used as a conjunction as well as preposition. So you have to decide whether to use objective form or the subjective form of pronoun after them accordingly.

But there is some special usage note to consider when it comes to than.

Note - Grammarians have insisted that than should be regarded as a conjunction in all its uses. So that a sentence such as Bill is taller than Tom should be construed as an elliptical version of the sentence Bill is taller than Tom is.

He is taller than I (This sentence is the elliptical version of He is taller than I am)

According to this view, the case of a pronoun following than is determined by whether the pronoun serves as the subject or object of the verb that is "understood."

But the rule allows the following sentence -

The news surprised Starun008 more than me. (It should be than me, not than I like the other example above. What is the reason? It's also simple. This concerned sentence is the elliptical version of The news surprised Starun008 more than it surprised me)


One major difference between you and me - there are no doubt many others - is that I use both cameras. (between is preposition, and so we need to use me, not I)

Neither he nor his brother can walk faster than I. (The elliptical version is Neither he nor his brother can walk faster than I can)

Whom did you mean to hurt by your unkind remarks except Sita and me? (correct. except is being used as a preposition here. So using I would be wrong)

Your husband doesn't believe that you are older than I. (The elliptical version is Your husband doesn't believe that you are older than I am)

Man_From_India

Posted 2014-12-22T11:06:32.723

Reputation: 10 615

3Insists doesn't take a direct object: *insists us to use. Rather, "insists (that) we use..." – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2014-12-22T12:50:55.267

2>

  • Neither he nor his brother can walk faster than I. (The elliptical version is Neither he nor his brother can walk faster than I can) but
  • He is taller than me (This sentence is the elliptical version of He is taller than I am). In 2 you change "I am" into 'me'(elliptical version) while in sentence 1 "I can" change into "I"(elliptical version). why? @Man_From_India
  • < – starun008 – 2014-12-22T13:59:10.770

    @starun008 I am really sorry for misleading you. Actually that was a mistake. I corrected that one. The standard grammar demand you have to use it this way - He is taller than I (am). – Man_From_India – 2014-12-22T14:10:26.407

    1@Man_From_India Do you have any evidence - from published grammars that say that we need to us I in : he is taller than me/I? :) – Araucaria - Not here any more. – 2014-12-22T14:17:09.563

    @Araucaria I haven't come across anything that says this is wrong, but I do have come across texts that say the standard form is "He is taller than I" Please see this link - http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/than

    – Man_From_India – 2014-12-22T14:26:02.463

    2John likes Peter more than me(John likes Peter more than he likes me) and John likes Peter more than I(John likes Peter more than I likes peter.The safest option is to expand the words after than. @Araucaria – starun008 – 2014-12-22T14:32:35.347

    1@Araucaria *I haven't said that "He is taller than me" is wrong. But here in India at least if you write this sentence in academic writing it will be considered wrong.* – Man_From_India – 2014-12-22T14:32:36.807

    @starun008 I think you got the point :) As I have already pointed out there is a tendency in traditional grammar to prefer "than" as conjunction over "than" as preposition. – Man_From_India – 2014-12-22T14:33:14.680

    Yes i get the point. Thanks to your immense explanation. – starun008 – 2014-12-22T14:36:35.647

    1Sorry, but I find your post to be very misleading and inaccurate. – F.E. – 2014-12-22T19:30:29.650

    @F.E. Can you please point out the inaccuracy? It will be helpful to both me and OP :) – Man_From_India – 2014-12-23T02:39:03.697

    @Man_From_India I'm in the middle of writing an answer post for another thread. I might be able to address some of the issues in your post later (in a day or more). In the meantime, perhaps you could add to your answer post where you comment on the acceptability of the OP's three examples and other examples, for both nominative and accusative versions. E.g. Is the version "Your husband doesn't believe that you are older than I" fully acceptable in all styles and registers? and what about the accusative version that uses "than me"? and what about the version with "than I am"? – F.E. – 2014-12-23T04:07:02.200

    @F.E. In my answer I have never catagorised one as correct and the other as wrong. All I have said what traditional grammar prefers. That doesn't imply the other verson of the sentence is wrong. In fact I don't know if they are at all wrong. In contrast, visiting various online sources I have found out they are not at all wrong. For the readers of my answers who had this question or doubt, I had already cleared the doubt with proper link in my comment :) – Man_From_India – 2014-12-23T04:09:29.140

    1@Man_From_India I've found your answer post to also be confusing, for it isn't clear as to the level of acceptability of the various versions. Perhaps you could mark up the versions with the evaluations that would be consistent to a vetted grammar source, such as the 2002 CGEL. – F.E. – 2014-12-23T04:11:23.217

    @F.E. In 2002 CGEL it also says both "than I" and "than me" (concerning the sentences of OP) are both correct, but traditional formal grammar prefers "than I". In fact that is what the link I shared in my comment section also says :) – Man_From_India – 2014-12-23T04:15:34.340

    @Man_From_India If the 2002 CGEL supports your opinions, then why not put those related excerpts from it into your post. That'll make your arguments much stronger, and allow the reader to see if those CGEL excerpts are being interpreted appropriately. :) – F.E. – 2014-12-23T04:57:12.063

    @F.E. Wasn't that a choice for the person who is writing whether to include a quote or not. Anyways when other readers asked me to mention some valid source in support of my views I did provide a link, but I added it in comment. In my opinion valid source doesn't include only CGEL, but CGEL is one of the best :) But the link I provided in support of my answer is from Oxford. But that is other thing about quotation. You haven't yet mentioned, that I have been asking for long, what inaccuracy you have pointed out in my answer? You have already mentioned you have found inaccuracy :) – Man_From_India – 2014-12-23T05:04:15.323

    @Man_From_India Your post is full of misleading and inaccurate stuff. If you go and document your sources, such as providing excerpts from vetted grammatical sources, such as reference grammars (not general purpose dictionaries), then the readers will see many of those inaccuracies and, maybe, they will point them out to you. – F.E. – 2014-12-23T05:06:40.197

    www.learnersdictionary.com/definition/than here I a find a sentence She is younger than me. [=she is younger than I (am)] @Man_From_India – starun008 – 2014-12-23T12:25:58.047

    @Man_From_India I also follow your link It say that sentence like "He is smaller than She" is uncommon in modern English. Sentences like "He is smaller than her" are almost universally accepted. – starun008 – 2014-12-23T12:45:12.310

    RE: Grammarians have insisted that than should be regarded as a conjunction in all its uses That's where you may have ruffled some feathers: What grammarians? When I look up than in the dictionary, it reads quite clearly: than (conj. & prep.). Maybe some grammarians feel this way, but you've written it far too dogmatically for an ELL answer. Moreover, you link to a dictionary supposedly supporting your "standard form" claim, yet it also says: it is arguable that than in this context is not a conjunction but a preposition, similar grammatically to words like with, between, or for. – J.R. – 2014-12-24T11:08:34.803

    @J.R. Thanks you, I have been so far looking such kind of comment that will point out the problem with my answer :) – Man_From_India – 2014-12-24T12:02:26.793

    1

    The Oxford Guide to English Grammar by John Eastwood has it in short form in paragraph 221.4 and 221.5

    "than" + nominative (I, we etc.) When a phrase/ clause follows:

    1 The motel was less expensive than I had expected.

    "than" + single personal pronoun in object form:

    2 The other teams played better than us.

    My remark: The variant 2 is often avoided by repeating the verb to be/to do as substitute of a normal verb:

    3 He is taller than I am.

    4 He speaks English better than I do.

    rogermue

    Posted 2014-12-22T11:06:32.723

    Reputation: 8 304

    http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/than here it says sentences like "he is smaller than she" are uncommon in modern English and only ever found in formal contexts. Uses such as "he is smaller than her", on the other hand, are almost universally accepted. – starun008 – 2014-12-29T06:40:17.427

    @starun008 These days, most dictionaries side with the preposition theory. But contra the dictionaries, there are many people who hold to the conjunction theory and practice it consistently in everyday situations, and these people often make exams and grade them, believing that they're upholding the integrity of the language. Properly speaking, it's a matter of controversy. This question has an answer that follows the conjunction theory, which is well worth reading.

    – Ben Kovitz – 2014-12-29T07:53:39.290

    0

    True, even I see both the styles (older than me/I) but I think to avoid ambiguity, you should use either 'me' or 'I am'

    Your husband doesn't believe that you are older than me.

    If you don't love ellipses, you go like this -

    Your husband doesn't believe that you are older than I am.

    But then, in sentence three, you are an object, so 'me' stands correct there.

    About me and I, there are many questions here on ELL. Search for the term and read the answers. They are very useful.

    Maulik V

    Posted 2014-12-22T11:06:32.723

    Reputation: 66 188

    The same concern applies to sentence #2 ("than I" as short for "than I can" would be a technically valid usage in the same style as #4), doesn't it? – Random832 – 2014-12-22T14:34:38.640

    @Random832 Please see the link I have provided in the comment below my answer. They are not wrong, in fact they are common in modern English usage, but traditional grammar prompts us to use it that way. That is valid form in formal context. – Man_From_India – 2014-12-22T14:37:56.707

    1You've explained why both forms are acceptable, but I disagree with the assertion that we should "avoid ambiguity" by using I am. Both are acceptable, plain and simple. – J.R. – 2014-12-24T11:03:43.370