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I was listening to the song Superman by Eminem. I've listened it before many times but from the time I've started learning English grammar I am getting confused while reading or listening English. This time I got stuck at the line "Too much pride, between you and I Not a jealous man but females lie". The phrase "between you and I" always sounded correct to me. But recently I learned that me is only used as an object and hearing that phrase sparked my head. Then I searched over the net and found on English Language stackexchange that it is actually a hypercorrection. Wikipedia says,

"...according to many grammarians and stylists a pronoun in a prepositional phrase in English is supposed to be in the oblique case... ...though there is still disagreement on whether the phrase itself in today's language is grammatically correct or not."

My first question is, why is there a disagreement? Don't we always use the object form in the oblique case? If not then what are those cases?

Secondly, I want to know how common the phrase "between you an I" is? Is it used colloquially by common native English speakers. By common speakers I mean who don't bother grammar. I searched on http://corpus.byu.edu/coca/ and got some results, e.g. this. I found the phrase in another song -- here. Is it a common mistake among native English speakers or is it used to give some special linguistic affect? I think this phrase has some linguistic affect that is why the singer would have given the name of her song "Between You and I". Because no one would like to use incorrect English in the title of a song, it must have some purpose.

  • When you have questions on English usage, then, just between you and I, a good place to look for answers would be a usage dictionary, such as Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, for they will often have an entry on stuff like this. And MWDEU does discuss this, as my copy of MWCDEU has an entry called "between you and I". (In short, this kind of usage is not a mistake.) – F.E. Jun 5 '15 at 20:12
  • Oh, don't blindly believe what you read over in EL&U. Much of what they say is wrong. – F.E. Jun 5 '15 at 20:19
  • @F.E. I searched in their website but could not find an entry for it. – user31782 Jun 6 '15 at 15:20
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    I'm a "between you and me" kind of person, and think that "between you and I" is largely the result of hypercorrection from the 60's and 70's. Of course, in songs, making something rhyme is a consideration too. The Doors' "I'm gonna love you/till the stars fall from the sky/for you and I" isn't grammatically correct, for example, but me doesn't rhyme with sky. – BobRodes Jun 16 '15 at 7:35
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"Between you and me" is historically correct, but many native English speakers -- perhaps especially my fellow Americans -- do not know this. I suspect that the confusion comes from the fact that "you" and "you" are indistinguishable, so people get used to "You and I" as a subject and then use "you and I" as an object. This is not helped by the fact that there is much emphasis placed on correcting "you and me" (and "me and you") as a subject into "you and I".

The disagreement I think comes mostly from descriptivists who say that whatever is understood and commonly used becomes correct.

In addition, song lyrics push the limits of acceptable grammar often, sometimes on purpose and sometimes just because -- as in your example -- it makes a better rhyme. We have an idiom of "poetic license" which is used to excuse grammatical as well as factual inaccuracies in the name of art. See also for instance "Say a little prayer for I" in which the object (properly "me") is changed to "I" for a rhyme even in the absence of the word "you".

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    A good example of the flexible grammar of songs is "Don't speak", where "you and me" is used (incorrectly) to rhyme with "be" but "you and I" is used (correctly) to rhyme with "die/cry" – Kirt Jul 5 '15 at 10:46
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"Between you and me". Plain and simple. Objects of prepositional phases always use the objective case of any pronoun (stands to reason, right!).

Consider these two alternatives: "Between us" and "Between we". Pretty clear that the first is correct and the second is incorrect. That's because the first is objective and the second is subjective. "We" (3rd person subjective, could be replaced by "you an I", the 2nd and 1st person subjective cases) and "Us" (3rd person objective, could be replaced by "you and me", the 2nd and 1st person objective cases).

This is what I call the "we-us" test. Whenever you want to know which is correct ("you and I" or "you and me"), simple substitute for "we" and/or "us". I "we" sounds correct, then go with "you and I" and if "us" sounds correct, go with "you and me".

With regard to where "between you and I" came from... well, this springs from people trying to sound more sophisticated than they are -- being under the impression that "you and I" sounds more sophisticated. It's just incorrect. Probably the most common similar example of this type of trying to put on airs is the overuse of "utilize" over "use". (No, this doesn't make you sound smarter either. And, by the way, the rule of thumb for this one is try "use" first and if -- and only if -- that doesn't work ,then try "utilize.")

Keep in mind, that just because something is popular, doesn't make it correct. Remember, at one time, everyone thought the earth was flat, but universal agreement did not make the earth actually flat!

  • Side note: popularity in linguistics usually does equate to correctness, because language is largely arbitrary and certainly artificial, and carries meaning only by convention. – Nathan Tuggy Apr 6 '16 at 4:39
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To answer your first question, I don't know why there's disagreement, other than that some people like to argue. Yes, always use the object form in the oblique case. No argument.

However common the phrase "between you an I" might be, it's wrong -- apparently commonly wrong.

Listening to songs sung in English is a good way to familiarize yourself with the language, but pop singing groups are not known for impeccable grammar. Continue using authoritative references.

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    Is the phrase between you and I used colloquially? Or is it a common mistake among native English speakers. Or is it used to give some special linguistic affect. I think this phrase has some linguistic affect that is why the singer would have given the name of her song between you and I. Because no one would like to use incorrect English in the title of a song, it must have some purpose. – user31782 Jun 5 '15 at 13:01
  • @user31782, Poetic license is defined as the freedom to depart from the conventional rules of language in order to create an effect. Correct: We sat beneath a starry sky, just you and I. Incorrect: We sat beneath a starry sky, sharing secrets between you and I. The incorrect example is grammatically incorrect, but license is used so the two phrases rhyme. – JimM Jun 5 '15 at 13:10
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    I didn't really answer your question. Yes, it's used colloquially, and, yes, it's a common mistake. Yes to both questions. – JimM Jun 5 '15 at 13:18
  • Ok so in songs its primary purpose is to fit in the rhyme scheme and it is a common mistake among common native speakers? But what about those who disagree with it being grammatically incorrect. What are their arguments? Is this phrase plain ungrammatical or are their any good arguments for it being grammatically correct? – user31782 Jun 5 '15 at 13:21
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    Some people take the view that "correct grammar" is defined solely by what is commonly used. If enough people say it, it is right, by definition. By that theory, at some point "a common mistake" becomes "correct". Note that unlike, say, physics, you can't perform an experiment to prove what is correct grammar. Personally I'd say "violates a rule that is good and logical" makes a grammatical construct "wrong", but many disagree. – Jay Jun 5 '15 at 13:38
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According to the grammarians the most correct version is - between you and me.

Though there has been vigorous debates as to whether between you and I are correct or not, it failed to reach any good unanimous conclusion. Grammarians divided in two groups - one supporting this usage, another raising their objection.

In this scenario some style guide manuals and usage dictionaries came in rescue, providing their recommendations.

From Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage -

You are probably safe in retaining between you and I in your casual speech, if it exists there naturally, and you would be true to life in placing it in the mouths of fictional characters. But you had better avoid it in essays and other works of a discursive nature. If you use it, someone is sure to notice and disparage your character, background, or education. What is more, it seems to have no place in modern edited prose.

For details please refer to the entry - Between you and I - of that book.

You can also refer to these images (included these images from the book for OP, because it seems that he doesn't have this book) -

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In case you want to download these images, please click on below links -

Link 1
Link 2
Link 3

  • Er, you might want to look into a reference grammar such as the 2002 H&P CGEL and see what they say about coordination of pronouns with respect to their case. :) – F.E. Jun 16 '15 at 5:34
  • @F.E. Oh okay...I just saw your comments under the question, and straight away checked MW usage dictionary :D :P okay I will look into that...any page number? – Man_From_India Jun 16 '15 at 5:36
  • H&P CGEL, section "Coordinate nominatives corresponding to non-coordinate accusatives", on page 463. Also, page 1326, [11]. – F.E. Jun 16 '15 at 5:43
  • @F.E. Thank you...I am reading pg. 463 already....That is really some good stuff written there...I will update my answer as soon as I am done with the reading and will fully understand it :-) – Man_From_India Jun 16 '15 at 5:45
  • This is also discussed in H&P's 2005 textbook, A Student's Introduction to English Grammar, page 107 -- which might be a better explanation in that it is a more recent text. – F.E. Jun 16 '15 at 5:46
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Pronoun Rules

  • Subjects use subjective pronouns.
  • Objects use objective pronouns.
  • Objects of the preposition (any noun coming after a preposition) use objective pronouns.

Example Sentence

He attacked her between them.

  • He is the subject.
  • Her is the object.
  • Them is the object of the preposition.

List of subjective pronouns

  • he
  • she
  • it
  • we
  • they
  • you
  • I
  • etc.

List of objective pronouns

  • him
  • her
  • it
  • us
  • them
  • you
  • me
  • etc.

Do native speakers always follow this rule?

No. This is one of the grammar rules that native speakers sometimes break. Grammar rules are good general guidelines, but languages are living things that change at a very fast rate. In a lot of ways, grammar is more like reverse engineering a language that already exists, rather than setting rules for a language and trying to make people follow them.

What are some other examples of grammar rules that native English speakers break?

  • There are several cases when you are supposed to use the word "whom" instead of "who". However, it is rare that I hear speakers following this rule.
  • If you say a sentence in the format pronoun + to be + pronoun, the second pronoun is supposed to be subjective. This is called the predicate nominative. There are some idioms where this rule is followed, such as it is I, but for the most part speakers ignore this rule. You don't hear native speakers saying things like If I were she, I would take the job. A native speaker would say If I were her, I would take the job.
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Prepositions are normally followed by an accusative or dative, sometimes even by a genetive. But not by a nominative. In English a feeling for accusative after a preposition is getting lost. Only when studying other languages you learn that there is no nominative after a preposition.

In English you can still see it with personal pronouns. You say "for him, with him etc" and not "for he or with he".

But when "between you and I is of common usage" it is to be tolerated. But I would prefer "between you and me".

Google Ngram shows that "between you and me" is the preferred expression. Link

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