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02/02/2009

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Barrie

‘Between you and I’ (as well as ‘between you and me’) seems to be used only when confidentiality is sought and even then only in that particular phrase. ‘Between you, I and the gatepost’ is unlikely, and all of the following must surely be inadmissible:

‘This is between you and he (or she).’
‘This is between you and we.’
‘This is between you and they.’

The authors of the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language seem to have a similar problem over what they have to say about the use of ‘I’ when it is the object of a sentence in coordination, as in ‘They invited my partner and I to lunch’. They argue persuasively that the case cannot be made that it must be ‘me’ because that’s what it would be on its own. They refer to another instance in English where a pronoun behaves differently in coordination from the way it behaves on its own. They do not, however, attempt to reconcile their view with what happens in other persons and numbers. ‘They invited her partner and she to lunch’, They invited his partner and he to lunch’, They invited our partners and we to lunch’, and ‘They invited their partners and they to lunch’ all seem to me to deserve an asterisk in front of them.

The question - Why is the first person singular an exception? - remains unanswered in both the post-prepositional and the objective instances.

Peter Harvey

Barrie,

Thank you for that very interesting comment. I cannot take it much further because I am in temporary accommodation while my flat is completely rebuilt internally and both my Comprehensive Grammar and Cambridge Grammar are in storage.

I might mention that the Shakespeare example of 'between you and I' is not seeking confidentiality, and that in this case English seems to have what could be regarded as an optional form where the 'I' is seen as fixed and impervious to the effect of prepositions.

This seems a bit similar to the Spanish formula, where 'entre' (but no other preposition) is followed by the subject form of all pronouns.

Barrie

I accept your point that ‘between you and I’ need not always imply confidentiality.

If hypercorrection plays any part in this at all, could it not be that the hypercorrectors are those who insist on ‘between you and me’?

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