Shylock in the Merchant of Venice

Clearing Up the Confusion between You and I

By Jennifer Rappaport

Many writers substitute the phrase between you and I for between you and me. Theodore M. Bernstein suggests that these writers may have been repeatedly corrected for writing “It is me” or “You and me ought to get together” and, as a result, are afraid to use the word me (74). Although “It is me” is acceptable in speech, in formal writing a subject pronoun must be used in the predicate following a linking verb such as to be—hence “It is I.” And a subject pronoun must be used for the subject of a sentence—hence “You and I ought to get together.” But, as Roy H. Copperud notes, “the preposition between calls for an object . . . me” (47). Thus, between you and me is correct.

Some writers defend between you and I by citing Shakespeare’s use of the phrase in The Merchant of Venice (Nohavicka). In act 3, scene 2, Bassanio reads a letter that says, “[A]ll debts are clear’d between you and I” (Shakespeare, lines 318–19). But Bernstein maintains that just because a famous writer may have broken the rules does not mean that all writers should disregard grammar: Shakespeare may have made a conscious choice to use I, or he may have used the subject pronoun “merely because he had a bellyache” (74).

So when you are writing a paper for class or an article for publication, play it safe and make it between you and me.

Works Cited

Bernstein, Theodore M. The Careful Writer: A Modern Guide to English Usage. Atheneum, 1965.

Copperud, Roy H. American Usage and Style: The Consensus. Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1980.

Nohavicka, Joseph. “Shakespeare Wrote ‘Between You and I.’” The New York Times, 30 June 1998,

Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice. The Riverside Shakespeare, edited by G. Blakemore Evans et al., vol. 1, Houghton Mifflin, 1974, pp. 250–85.


Published 14 December 2017

4 comments on “Clearing Up the Confusion between You and I”

  1. I concur with Jennifer for using I instead of me. Most people are not aware of the formal and informal facets of writing.

    • Thanks for your comment. Just to be clear, I was arguing that “between you and me” is the correct form.

  2. Hi. My question is slightly off-topic, but it does pertain to “formal writing” and subjects as used here. This post uses a “just because” dependent clause as the subject for the “does not mean . . .” predicate. I know that’s common, clear communication that is widely accepted, especially for informal usage. However, does it break rules of grammar for formal writing, or not?

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