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A question was asked in one of my friend's interview. The question was to determine the right form from the below sentences.

Q. Correct form of English:

  1. Samuel was with Susan and I
  2. Samuel was with Susan and me
  3. Samuel was with I and Susan
  4. Samuel was with me and Susan
  5. None of these

Now I vaguely remember a rule of thumb from my school days. That is "2-3-1" i.e. where all the persons are acting in a sentence, second person comes first, then third person and it is followed by first person.

So according to this theory, 1 seems to be correct to me. Is this theory correct?

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Your theory is correct. But that leaves us with 1) and 2).

Between I and me, we can decide like this: I corresponds to we and me corresponds to us. 'He was with us' and not 'He was with we.' So, 2) is the correct option.

  • 1
    +1, That being said, "me and Susan" is probably the more common form in actual usage. – DCShannon Apr 5 '16 at 16:49
2

In "Samuel was with Susan and I." Susan and I is the object of the verb. As such, standard English requires you to use me.

The NOAD has a note about using personal pronouns.

The correct use of personal pronouns is one of the most debated topics of English usage. I, we, they, he, and she are subjective personal pronouns, which means they are used as the subject of the sentence, often coming before the verb ("she lives in Paris"; "we are leaving"). Me, us, them, him, and her, on the other hand, are objective personal pronouns, which means that they are used as the object (i.e., they receive the action) of a verb or preposition ("John likes me"; "his father left him"; "I did it for her"). This explains why it is not correct to say "John and me went to the mall": The personal pronoun is in subject position, so it must be I, not me. Using the pronoun alone makes the incorrect use obvious: "Me went to the mall" is clearly not acceptable. This analysis also explains why it is not correct to say "he came with you and I": the personal pronoun is governed by a preposition ( with) and is therefore objective, so it must be me, not I. Again, a simple test for correctness is to use the pronoun alone: "He came with I" is clearly not acceptable.

As for the order of the objects, the preferred order is "Susan and me" but there isn't a grammar rule for that.

  • I think that "2-3-1 rule" is just a silly hangover from Victorian manners, politeness, rather than grammar. The fact of the matter is it bears no relation to what people actually say. From Google Books - john and me: 129K results; me and john: 5180K results. – FumbleFingers Sep 19 '13 at 18:03
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    In natural English, me and John is grammatical, even in a subject. But the x and I nominative form we all learn in school is much more strictly ordered--I and x is much rarer. – snailcar Sep 19 '13 at 18:23
  • @snailboat: Indeed. I and John went (somewhere): 6 results. John and I went (there): 149,000 results. We only put others first in the somewhat stylised Myself and John went: 6 hits, vs. John and myself went: 5830 hits. – FumbleFingers Sep 19 '13 at 20:08
  • I'll also add that the NOAD's tests aren't logically sound. It does not follow that because a particular form must be used in a simple object (or simple subject) that it must also be used in a conjoined object (or conjoined subject). – snailcar Sep 20 '13 at 1:38
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A helpful trick for determining whether to use I or me in a multi-person scenario is to take the other people out of the sentence. If you still have a valid sentence at that point, then you have the correct pronoun.

For example, with the sentence Samuel was with Susan and I, you take out Susan, leaving you with the sentence Samuel was with I. Hopefully you can tell immediately that this is incorrect, and therefore the initial sentence is also incorrect. If you replace I with me, the sentence then appears correct. Now you can add Susan back in, and you still have a correct sentence: Samuel was with Susan and me.

As for whether you or Susan should be mentioned first, as answered on ELU, it is a "rule of politeness" to put yourself last. (But the rule of thumb that I have is 3-2-1, not 2-3-1.)

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