DON'T LEARN GRAMMAR FROM POP SONGS
Two pop songs (besides Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend”) have struck a chord—pun intended—with our followers, specifically over the use of “you and I.” The songs are both called “You and I”: one is by One Direction; the other is by Lady Gaga.
Regarding the above songs, we’ve received dozens of questions that sound like this: In terms of grammar, should their titles have been “You and Me”?
That question is relevant to us because both songs have been played millions of times by people who now assume that “you and I” is correct. We are far from being grammar pedants and killjoys (remember our article about Grammar Nazis?), but we strive to shed light on tricky grammar concepts that either make people look silly if they get them wrong or are regularly tested on standardized exams (SAT, ACT, GRE, etc.). This topic definitely falls under both categories.
Let’s look at subject pronouns and object pronouns.
Therefore, if “you and I” are performing the action, it should be “you and I”:
- “You and I are best friends.”
- “You and I are supposed to work together.”
- “You and I crossed the finish line at the same time.”
If “you and I” are receiving the action, it should be “you and me”:
- “The teacher picked you and me as study partners.”
- “My parents will give you and me a ride to school today.”
- “John promised to take you and me to Disneyland.”
(TIP: Don’t use “you and me” at the very beginning of a sentence.)
Also, there’s an easy trick to see whether “you and I” or “you and me” is correct: delete “you and” and see if whatever’s left makes sense:
- Jo baked you and I a cake. → Jo baked I a cake. (Wrong)
- Jo baked you and me a cake. → Jo baked me a cake. (Right!)
You can use the same trick with “John (or any other name) and I” vs. “John and me”:
- Jo drove John and I to school. → Jo drove I to school. (Wrong)
- Jo drove John and me to school. → Jo drove me to school. (Right!)
As far as the aforementioned songs are concerned, there’s a tip that helps to distinguish whether “you and I” is used correctly in the lyrics:
Keeping the above point in mind, let’s take a look at the lyrics from One Direction’s “You and I”:
In the chorus, the line should have been “No, nothing can come between you and me.” In other words, “Nothing can come between us” (not “we”).
Let’s now look at the lyrics from Lady Gaga’s “You and I”:
Alas, the line should have been “something about you and me,” i.e., there is “something about us” (not “we”).
Sadly, both songs got it wrong.
But then again, singers and songwriters aren’t in the business of promoting good grammar. That’s not their job.
In closing, if you come across lyrics that just don’t sound right, find out whether they are, in fact, grammatically correct. If you aren’t sure, ask us.