"My sister and I" versus "I and my sister"

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I've been told to put "I" at the last part of the subject, as in "My sister and I walk to school." Is saying "I and my sister walk to school." wrong?

kartika

Posted 2013-08-22T13:49:44.490

Reputation: 91

Answers

11

According to Grammar Girl, it's "a rule of politeness" to put yourself last in the list:

Ms. Smith informed my wife and me that she was resigning.

My sister and I went to school.

General Writing and Grammar help concurs, but does not offer any additional authorities on the matter.

The Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary offers the same advice: third-person, then second-person, finally first-person pronouns for general usage; mixing up the order is not necessarily rude, but can serve to emphasize the role of the speaker in the action, or as a cue that the speaker is talking informally or is less-educated.

Hellion

Posted 2013-08-22T13:49:44.490

Reputation: 18 009

7

I and my sister is a bit odd, yes. As Hellion explains, usually we're taught to put ourselves last in coordinated lists, so you'd write this instead:

My sister and I walk to school.

In formal speech, you should always put yourself last. And even if you put yourself last in informal speech, it'll sound perfectly natural. So the short answer is always put yourself last.


However, it's very much natural English to write or say it the other way, putting yourself first in the list. Native speakers almost all talk this way (until they're taught not to do so), and there's nothing wrong with doing so in informal speech. But we don't say this:

I and my sister walk to school. (very rare, even in non-standard English)

Instead, we say this:

Me and my sister walk to school. (acceptable in non-standard English)

I want to emphasize something: although this is extremely common, it's a stigmatized speech pattern and should be considered non-standard. You don't ever have to speak this way, but you shouldn't be surprised when you hear other speakers do so.

snailplane

Posted 2013-08-22T13:49:44.490

Reputation: 30 097

This is just for fun but I am not a native English speaker. So I like to think that me comes from German mich wich is accusative. This way, I can avoid making some mistakes. 'Mich und meine Schwester gehen', sounds weird. Again, it is only my own fun way to stay less confused. – Ascendant – 2015-07-03T00:10:51.253

I agree with most of what you said, but I'm not convinced that "I and my sister walk to school" is ungrammatical. Any references to cite? – LarsH – 2013-08-22T21:08:56.533

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@LarsH Sure. Reference 1, reference 2.

– snailplane – 2013-08-22T23:56:02.923

4@LarsH I do think you could make differing judgments about the grammaticality. The fact is, though, people don't say things like *I and my sister walk to school, or they do so very rarely. The me and my sister version is strongly favored. That's primarily what I wanted to get across in my answer. – snailplane – 2013-08-23T00:03:27.800

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I agree with your answer. That said, I'm not sure if this is truly a matter of "politeness", and I suspect "politeness" might just be a mnemonic device to help us remember the conventional way to say it. After all, sentences such as, "Bill walks to school with me and my sister" are not considered rude, even though we are putting the first-person pronoun first. So, as you said, even if it's not ungrammatical, "I and my sister" is most certainly unconventional.

– J.R. – 2013-08-23T09:37:25.067

1@J.R. Oh, I don't think it's a matter of politeness either. That's why I left that particular detail out of my answer. Hellion's answer does say that, but I voted it up anyway, as it's a good summary of several common references. – snailplane – 2013-08-23T09:52:34.083

Thanks for the references. I agree that I and my sister is rare, and that Quinn's RPC 1 has good predictive power. Nevertheless she refers to this and the other constraints as "violable" (p. 3), and rightly so. – LarsH – 2013-08-23T13:32:27.697

1@LarsH See 8.2.1 in Grano's thesis for one particular way this constraint might be systematically violated. – snailplane – 2013-08-23T13:54:05.653

Interesting. "one principled way in which the 'X and I' constraint is systematically violated ... is when the other conjunct is in some sense inherently secondary in the discourse, e.g.: (87) I and everyone around me noticed the strange noise' – LarsH – 2013-08-23T15:35:54.493

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@LarsH: As you say, it's not an unbreakable rule. Just for the fun of it, I looked up the expression on Google books, and that proved to be the case (although, as might be expected, there were considerably more hits when I changed the search phrase back to my sister and I).

– J.R. – 2013-08-23T23:13:24.393

@J.R. You could argue that it's grammatical but rare. My personal judgment is that it's still ungrammatical, and my current working explanation is that the attestations can be interpreted either as 1. hypercorrections (as in this example from your link, where a later me is also hypercorrected to I: "Recently I and my sister, Vella, who is three years older than I"), 2. parsing the apparent coordinator and the second conjunct instead as a parenthetical, which I hypothesize might be observable in speech if it's correct; or 3. errors. – snailplane – 2013-08-23T23:36:13.273

@J.R. However I haven't done the research to show that this is the case, so writing "ungrammatical" in my answer is based in part on my personal grammaticality judgment. So I'd like to repeat again: I do think you could make differing judgments about the grammaticality. But I'm glad we had this discussion--I think it's one of the better comment threads that I've participated in on ELL :-) – snailplane – 2013-08-23T23:37:31.810

Can you elaborate on how some of those attestations can be the result of hypercorrection? (of me to I, I guess?) – LarsH – 2013-08-24T00:17:49.320

@LarsH Yes, from me to I. You expect a small distribution of hypercorrections from me to I in any position, not just in coordinate subjects, because there's some association between me and I with stigmatized and prestige speech patterns respectively. However, this is merely my working explanation, and I can't demonstrate to you that it is a hypercorrection; it's possible that I'm wrong, and I don't know without doing further research. And contra my position, I believe some linguists think that I in object position is not a hypercorrection (e.g. in the example above). – snailplane – 2013-08-24T00:36:39.520

I've relented and changed my answer from ungrammatical to very rare. It's still my personal judgment that it's not acceptable, but it seems that some other speakers disagree, so perhaps this is a matter of some variation. – snailplane – 2013-09-27T02:12:26.470

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The issue here, as in the discussion above, is not only about grammar but also about custom and usage, whether "formal" or "informal," whether in writing or in speech, etc. I agree that, per custom and usage, we are taught both to say and to write, for example, "She and I are going...," and not, "I and she are going." However, we are taught that such constructions are necessarily an issue of correct vs. incorrect grammar. I do not think so.

Again, I am in the camp that would always say/write, "She and I...," not "I and she..."; but linguistically/grammatically there is nothing incorrect per se about saying/writing "I and she...."

"I and she are going to the store" (i.e., "we are") conveys the exact same information, perfectly understandable both to speaker/writer and hearer/reader, and employs the correct nominatives "I"/"she" (vs. incorrect objective "me"), but in a different order (I/she instead of She/I) than--agreed!--we are acCUSTOMed to using them.

But custom, etiquette, and grammar/linguistics are different animals, even if they so often overlap that we do not discern their differences. I think this discussion requires that we acknowledge such difference for the purpose of (re-)examining how we construct a sentence--such as "She and I are going to the store"--whether per custom and/or usage and/or linguistics.

That said--ha!--I can't imagine I would ever say/write "I and she...."

Bo Adan

Posted 2013-08-22T13:49:44.490

Reputation: 21

-1

You would say "I am going to school" however, to include your sister in the sentence you would say either "I am going to school with my sister" - which is logical, grammatically correct and understandable, also use of I in the first person tense is acceptable in this instance, or My sister and I are going to school. However to say "I and my sister" is incorrect as you are using the wrong "person" tense, "me and my sister" is also wrong, you could scrape by using "myself and my sister" although to be grammatically correct it should be "My sister and I". "I" indicates yourself as "active" i.e. a subject pronoun, I read, I run, I walk, I think therefore I am. Try adding me to any of the aforementioned and it does not make sense. He asked "me" i.e. having something done to you, make me the "object" pronoun.

Ann

Posted 2013-08-22T13:49:44.490

Reputation: 60