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1) You and I will play in the evening.

2) I and You will play in the evening.

I think both sentences are right, but why do we always prefer to use the first sentence?

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I don't think it has anything to do with politeness either, but with the "syntactical expectation" that a verb will follow the word "I". "Peter and I" does not disrupt the expectation.

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  • The pattern of self = last can be found in other (related) languages, German for example. As I child I was explicitly taught that the reverse is impolite. The set phrase being (roughly translated) "Only the ass goes ahead." (Nur der Esel nenn sich selbst zuerst.. – Stephie Nov 7 '15 at 12:36
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    But that teaching is like a folk etymology. In German too, the expectation is that a verb will follow ich. The pattern is not "self last" but "self verb". – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 7 '15 at 12:41
  • When "self" is in the first person. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 7 '15 at 12:47
  • I'm talking about lists of persons including self, not subject-verb order. ( Which wouldn't necessarily be true, both for main and subordinate clauses, btw.: "Gestern haben Lisa und ich..." and "..., weil Lisa und ich ihre Oma in Berlin besucht haben.") – Stephie Nov 7 '15 at 13:45
  • I am talking about lists of persons including self as well, but I was thinking of a sentence like "Lisa und ich haben ihre Oma in Berlin besucht" rather than one that begins with "Gestern", which brings "haben" before the subject. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 8 '15 at 2:28
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Traditionally, it has been considered courteous to place the reference to yourself last.

For example, we prefer:

Mary will ask you and me later.

Over:

Mary will ask me and you later.

It is not grammatically wrong to say I and You, but it is more polite to say You and I as stated here.

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    I think that reversing the order in the subject is a worse faux pas than reversing the order in the object. Continuing your example, we could write Mary and I will ask you later, or I and Mary will ask you later; the I and Mary version sounds even more jarring than your me and you version. I also like the way this website says that putting the reference to yourself last "has traditionally been considered courteous." It's hard to tell if it's really a matter of courtesy or tradition – that wording allows for some of both. – J.R. Nov 7 '15 at 9:54
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It's tempting to assume that weird rules in English relate to politeness, but in this case I don't think that's the reason.

My gut feeling is that it is almost the opposite of politeness, in that the natural emphasis in speaking normally falls on the first-person ('I' or 'us') part of the construction. There is a very slight natural pause between the subject clause and the verb which subtly stresses the last one. The effect may be a little clearer in a phrase like 'Peter and I played tennis yesterday'. The effect is almost to parenthesise the other person "(You and) I will ..", "(Peter and) I played ..".

It depends on context: you could definitely choose to stress the 'You' instead (e.g. to highlight that it is 'you' not e.g. 'your sister'). My hunch is that naturally, from the point of the speaker, their own involvement is stronger, so tends to take the more emphasised position. From there it has probably just evolved as idiom to the point where it now sounds very strange the 'wrong' way round.

In Michay's 2nd example it is more difficult: both actually sound odd without some specific context, as it would almost always be 'us'. If there was a real reason for splitting out into 'you and me', we would probably use a different construction to highlight it more strongly: e.g. 'Mary will ask both of us later'.

A more common one might be something like "We're not so different, you and I.", but again here the emphasis is on "I" - and the effect is particularly strong due to the end of the sentence.

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    The pattern of self = last can be found in other (related) languages, German for example. As I child I was explicitly taught that the reverse is impolite. The set phrase being (roughly translated) "Only the ass goes ahead." (Nur der Esel nenn sich selbst zuerst.. – Stephie Nov 7 '15 at 12:37

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