‘You and me – and me and you’ sang The Turtles way back in 1967, as they knocked the Beatles’ ‘Penny Lane’ off the no. 1 spot on the US charts with ‘Happy Together’. But which should it be?
Unusually for grammar, the answer is: it doesn’t matter! It simply depends what you wish to emphasise. You can use first-, second- and third-person personal pronouns in any order you like.
- As I entered the room, the class fell silent. I and they would learn much together over the coming months.
- As I entered the room, the class fell silent. They and I would learn much together over the coming months.
Both these examples sound a little strange, because the more usual way to phrase the second sentence would be to write We would learn. But both I and they and They and I are correct, depending what emphasis the writer wants to make.
- I would like you to work with Graham on this project. You and he will make a good team.
- I would like you to work with Graham on this project. He and you will make a good team.
Again, the second sentence sounds a bit strange, because we would nearly always say or write You would make a good team or You two will make a good team. But again, there is nothing wrong with using both the second- and third-person personal pronouns (you, he) in either order.
And, as The Turtles sang, if we look at combining the first- and second-person pronouns, we can say either ‘Me and you’ or ‘You and me’.
Manners versus grammar
But grammar isn’t the only consideration in writing! There are other influences we need to be aware of and one of them is civility, or showing consideration for other people. Particularly in speech, it is polite to put other people first, and yourself last. For this reason, we tend to say (and write) with the first person last.
- They and I would learn much over the coming months.
- You and I will be so happy together.
- For you and me, life will be so happy together.
The order in which you put your pronouns does not say so much about your knowledge of grammar as about how much respect you have for other people.
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Images: rings by Quinn_Kampschroer from Pixabay, record shop by Mike from Pexels, The Bow by Akuppa John Wigham from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0; see copyright page for details of licence)