After asking about “me” for answering a question. at Answering a question with "Me" instead of "I" + <auxiliary verb>, I think I understand how to use “me” for answering a question.

However, I just remembered reading a children book, The Little Red Hen, many months ago and I found some sentences from that book.

“Who will help me to plant this wheat?” the little red hen asked her friends.
Not I,” said the cat.
“Not I,” said the rat.
“Not I,” said the pig.

I don’t understand why those animals say “Not I.” I think they should say “Not me.”

Or is it that for speaking we should say "not me", but for writing "not I" is more appropriate?

  • 1
    When was this edition of The Little Red Hen published? My guess is that it's at least 50 years old. I think more care was put into being more grammatical in children's books back then.
    – J.R.
    Dec 13, 2013 at 22:35
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    "Not I" is no more grammatical than "Not me".
    – user230
    Dec 14, 2013 at 2:54
  • Thank you so much everyone! I understand how to use them now. @ J.R. I tried to find the year of edition in that book but I didn't see it. I just found that it is published by Ladybird Books, London.
    – nkm
    Dec 14, 2013 at 3:30
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    @J.R. I remember the version from when I was a kid saying "Not I" as well. I think in this case it's probably just part of the story. In conversation I'd say "not me", but if I were retelling my remembered version of this story I'd say "not I" :)
    – WendiKidd
    Dec 15, 2013 at 2:35
  • 1

6 Answers 6


As discussed in the comments above, "Not I" is the more formally correct structure, but "Not me" may be more common in everyday speech.

Mignon Fogarty explains the situation fairly well at the following page. http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/it-is-i-versus-it-is-me

  • 1
    Does it have anything to do with whether it's a subject or object pronoun? If that's the case, it would depend on the question: "Who will help me to plant this wheat" "Not I." "For whom did I plant this wheat?" "Not me."
    – hypehuman
    Jan 13, 2016 at 14:41
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    It does depend on subject vs. object, but there's a traditional exception for treating objects of "linking verbs." Check my link above for good discussion on it.
    – wordsmythe
    Feb 10, 2016 at 19:54

"My brother eats sprouts but not I" must be correct, because "not I" is short for "I don't eat sprouts"; it's not short for "Me don't eat sprouts"- unless it's a Neanderthal in a cartoon speaking.

  • Welcome to ELL.SE. If you have a moment, please take our tour. This first answer wasn't bad, but would be improved if you pointed the OP (original poster) to English grammar sources that supported your examples. Thanks!
    – JBH
    Mar 16, 2018 at 19:26

"Not I" is grammatically correct but old-fashioned and formal. People don't speak like that nowadays.

"Who took my book?"

If you say "Not I" that means "I didn't take your book"

If you say "Not me" (which is the prefered version) that means "It wasn't me who took your book"

The same is in the affirmative sentences, where the "I" version is formal.


I suspect I is correct but 'not me' would be emphatic i.e. (implied) definitely not me (and correct). And re the Who took my book example, it should strictly be 'it wasn't I who took...' because (nerdy here) the verb to be takes a complement (I, she, we) not an accusative (me, her, us)i.e. the 'it' and the I are the same thing (exit left before someone shoots me)


If you want to convey a slightly old-fashioned or posh persona, say ‘Not I’; if you want to be down with the kids say ‘Not me’. Either is fine, both would be understood. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether ‘Not I’ is simply correct or hyper-correct.


The correct usage is "Not I". The supposed performer of the the action of helping is the subject "I", not the object "me"

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