When responding to "Who sees the hammer?" When the person who sees the hammer answers the questions. Should they use "me" or "I do"?


"I do" is correct in terms of proper formal grammar, but "me" would be commonly used and not generally thought incorrect. For some audiences, you may find you are expected to use "I do".

  • I think you're probably right that I is "correct", but I can't help thinking that it's simply not "idiomatically acceptable" as a single-word response, in any context at all (except maybe poetic / theatrical). But whereas affirmative I do doesn't sound particularly formal to me (even though it's effectively competing against definitely informal Me), the two-word negative response Not I seems very dated / poetic / formal to me. – FumbleFingers Feb 10 at 17:32
  • ...anyway, I could certainly give scope for confusion in response to Who will bell the cat? Where I imagine all the other mice at the meeting would be shouting Aye! with the meaning Yes, I absolutely agree! That's a very good question to ask! – FumbleFingers Feb 10 at 17:39
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    Both I do! and Me! are grammatically (and idiomatically) correct. Personal pronouns are by default accusative when they stand alone. The difference is in formality: the first reply would be considered neutral, while the second is markedly informal (in my opinion as a non-native speaker of English). – userr2684291 Feb 10 at 20:10
  • @userr2684291: You must recognise that there are many native speakers who do insist on the unique correctness of the grammar as defined by Victorian grammarians. Hence answers distinguishing between what's fine in actual use, and what's actually right according to textbooks. A lot of non-native speakers who teach English as a foreign language stick to the "official" version (not that there is an official version, but you know what I mean) – SamBC Feb 10 at 21:21
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    @SamBC Yes, many English-speaking people, both native and non-native, have been taught antiquated grammar rules which no longer obtain in present-day English (or that have never really applied). Language isn't defined by textbooks, but by people who speak it. Textbooks (or grammars) may only attempt to describe it, and prescriptivism may only reasonably follow afterwards. There's no need to teach, or insist on a version of English that isn't used. Such prescriptivism is potentially harmful in the short term (resulting in stiltedness), and a pipe dream teaching "zombie rules" in the long term. – userr2684291 Feb 10 at 22:37

They should say “I do.” Think about replacing “who” in the question with a pronoun to turn it into a statement. The correct sentence is “I see the hammer,” not “Me see the hammer.”

EDIT: see comments below. I realize now that this answer is in fact specious, as another commenter pointed out. "Me" is very informal but not incorrect when it stands on its own as an answer to the question. I am leaving my original answer above so it might be used as a learning opportunity for future users of this StackExchange community.

  • The fact that this specious argument has been advanced many times over the years does not make it one whit less specious. We do not always communicate in sentences. The fact that "me do" would not be grammatical says zero about whether or not "me" is grammatical. – Colin Fine Feb 10 at 17:32
  • @ColinFine: But per my comment below, although it's not grammatically / syntactically necessary to explicitly include some kind of verb, I think it's idiomatically expected in almost all contexts. At least where the "verbless subject" is I (my qualms on that front don't seem to extend to John, Him, or You as possible one-word responses). – FumbleFingers Feb 10 at 17:44
  • @FumbleFingers: I'm not sure what you're saying. "I do", "You do", He does", "John does", "Me", "Him", and "John" are all idiomatic answers, and "I" and "He" are unidiomatic (literary) answers. What has that to do with Mixolydian's argument? – Colin Fine Feb 10 at 17:50
  • @ColinFine: I'm assuming that M's answer here is based on the assumption that a single-word answer (just subject, no verb clause) is somehow "ungrammatical", and I'm agreeing with you that this isn't a valid position (and agreeing that Me isn't "invalidated" by the fact that expansion to Me see it doesn't work). The only issue I see is that single-word I isn't idiomatic - and one possible way to get around that is to make it a two-word response by drafting in do as an auxiliary helper substituting for see. – FumbleFingers Feb 10 at 18:06
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    Alright... you got me. Is “me” an acceptable informal response that is used and understood by most people? Of course it is. Fair point that “me” being ok does not mean that “me” being used as a subject pronoun would also be ok. I also agree with @FumbleFingers that “I” by itself does not work as an answer to the question. – Mixolydian Feb 11 at 0:56

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