Author Topic: Which usage is correct: “than I” or “than me”?  (Read 5817 times)

Joe Carillo

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Which usage is correct: “than I” or “than me”?
« on: January 14, 2015, 12:04:45 AM »
Question posted in my Personal Messages box by Baklis, Forum member (January 13, 2015):

Good Morning Sir,

Which is the correct usage: “than I” or “than me”?

“The quick answer is both are correct, but not everyone agrees that both are correct, and that’s the problem. These days, the word ‘than’ is classified both as a conjunction and as a preposition, and that’s the root of the debate.” “Than I or Than Me?” Grammar-Monster. com

May I know your thoughts about this? Thank you!

My reply to Baklis:

It’s true that the choice between “than I” or “than me” remains debatable to this day. Grammarians from different schools of thought often lock horns on whether “than” is functioning in a sentence as a conjunction or as a preposition, and on whether the pronoun after “than” is the subject (“I”) or object (“me”) of an elliptical verb (meaning a verb that’s no longer shown because it’s understood to be there). But trying to understand what all of this means can give both of us a king-sized headache, so I’d rather that we just focused on figuring out whether “than” is being used as a conjunction or a preposition.

“Than” is clearly a conjunction in these two typical situations: (a) when it’s used after a comparative adjective or adverb to introduce the second element or clause of an unequal comparison, as in the sentence “She is a better public speaker than I”; and (b) when it’s used to introduce the second element after certain words indicating difference, as in “She speaks English more fluently than I do.” In both sentences, the objective-case “me” is evidently wrong just from the sound of it: “She is a better public speaker than me.” “She speaks English more fluently than me does.”

(Be forewarned, however, that some English speakers are much more comfortable saying “She is a better public speaker than me.” Formally, their usage of the objective “me" instead of “I” in this particular instance is grammatically incorrect, but informally, that usage has become acceptable from repeated use. My advice therefore is this: Let the “me”-users be to avoid endless debate. As to your own formal written usage, though, stick to “I” so no one will think of you as a grammar ignoramus.)

On the other hand, “than” is a preposition when used in a sentence that specifically makes a comparison or contrast between two subjects on a particular aspect, as in these two sentences: “She could read faster than me.” “In reading, she outperformed everyone other than me.” In both sentences, “than” functions as a preposition and the objective-case pronoun “me” works as the object of that preposition. Clearly, both sentences read and sound right.  

The above usage of “than,” however, is often the bone of contention of grammarians who insist that it is erroneous on the ground that “than” always works as a conjunction. As such, they argue that those two sentences above should use the nominative-case pronoun “I” instead, as follows: “She could read faster than I.” “In reading, she outperformed everyone other than I.” They argue that this should be the case because these sentences are just elliptical constructions that have dropped the verbs “could” and “did” after the “I.” The first sentence—“She could read faster than I”—sounds forced and unnatural, though, and the second sentence—“In reading, she outperformed everyone other than I”—is semantically flawed in addition. Using the objective-case pronoun “me” for such situations is clearly the proper usage: “She could read faster than me.” “In reading, she outperformed everyone other than me.”

Reference: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language
 
« Last Edit: January 14, 2015, 08:02:53 AM by Joe Carillo »