Settling the “Than I” vs “Than me” controversy forever!

Wow, I’ve been dealing with this damn grammatical problem directly for a day or two now and less directly for even longer than that. First of all, let me just state that snide grammarians really piss me off because 1. their efforts are only designed to prove their own intelligence (and not to help you out in any way) and 2. most of the time their “corrections” (done loudly and publicly) AREN’T EVEN FRICKING ACCURATE!

The good thing about dealing with grammarians (or pseudo grammarians as most of them are) is that all you have to do is throw out a couple grammatical phrases (like “participle,” “subjunctive,” or “subordinate conjunction”) and usually their face goes white and they resign the battle…however you always have to watch out because true grammarians NEVER retire from a battle (and there’s no convincing them because they stick to their guns because they think they’re ALWAYS right).

In all reality, it’s stupid to be drawn into a battle over grammar because, let’s face it, nobody gives a fuck (at least nobody who is of any value to the world). However, there are a couple little traps you have to watch out for since non-grammatical “grammarians” use them to build a case for your grammatical incompetency even though diving to such conclusions based upon these misunderstood traps is completely unwarranted. For example, it would be a shame to get a lower grade on a formal paper, or miss out on a job because you used “than me” instead of “than I” or vice versa. To make matters worse, there are official grammatical sources who champion BOTH of these constructions. Let me give you a little background:

Consider these two phrases:

1. He is smarter than I.

2. He is smarter than me.

Most people would probably chose phrase 2. as the correct one. However, some grammarians INSIST that the more accurate of the two is phrase 1. Their argument is that in this case “than” is being used as a conjunction which is connecting two independent clauses. Since the “I” portion of the sentence can be completed with the verb “I am” and still make a coherent sentence, grammarians conclude that the proper pronoun should be the subject pronoun (“I” instead of “me”). [Let me just mention that I am writing this after having done about 50 internet searches which led me to about 25 arguments for “than me” and about 25 for “than I”…frankly, if there’s no consistency of thought, people shouldn’t be using this as an “irrefutable” grammatical point…but they do anyway because people suck]

HOWEVER, some other grammarians INSIST that “than” is being used as a preposition and that any pronouns that follow should be in the object form (me, him, her, it, them, you, us) [let’s make a note that this whole thing is further complicated by the fact that the pronouns “it” and “you” are the same in their subject and object form].

Well, where do you go from here?

First of all, I think it’s important to notice that whether the final pronoun is a subject pronoun or an object pronoun makes a HUGE difference to meaning. Take the following example in which I’ve filled in the omitted verbs for the sake of clarifying the meaning.

1. She loves you more than I [love you].

2. She loves you more than [she loves] me.

You see? Completely different meaning! In one case “you” is the only person being loved (whoever that is), and in the other case both “you” and “me” are being loved (whoever they are…let it be noted that many of these problems can also be avoided by just sticking in the proper names rather than using pronouns at all [a good idea for formal writing anyway]).

Therefore (getting back on track), DEPENDING ON WHAT YOU’RE TRYING TO SAY either “than I” OR “than me” might be correct (and I bet you one billion dollars that some people are going to correct you on this even though the correction CHANGES THE MEANING YOU INTENDED!!!! Grammarians piss me off).

So, what’s the solution?

Well, the way I see it, the case where “than me” is grammatically correct when “me” has to be an object, IS a grammatically correct version of a sentence that even TRADITIONAL GRAMMARIANS cannot argue with…the problem is that they WILL argue this, so you’re probably better off not using this in a formal setting.

Furthermore, if you are of the “‘than’ is a conjunction” persuasion, and you insist that in this case it’s being used to connect TWO INDEPENDENT CLAUSES, you have to admit that “I” by itself is NOT AN INDEPENDENT CLAUSE (an independent clause needs a verb). Therefore, although it is grammatically correct to say “He is smarter than I am” it is NOT grammatically correct to say “He is smarter than I” (by the way, this is MY argument, I didn’t find it in any of the 50 or so pages my search led me too…which only shows again that grammarians are full of shit since this is so obvious).

However, you can see the problem of trying to explain this at a job interview or whatever. Even if you are right, you’re not going to get the job because the interviewer’s eyes are going to gloss over and they’re just going to assume that you are an idiot (because THEY think THEY are beyond reproach).

Out of all of this the phrase to remember in defending yourself is:

“When using ‘than’ as a conjunction you need TWO independent clauses so you must say ‘I am,’ ‘I’ alone is incorrect.”

It will be hard for grammarians to battle with you here, but they’ll still try. In truth, it’s best to avoid this conflict at all by simply avoiding the “than me” construction even though it is grammatically correct in many instances.

Here’s a good grammar resource for all your grammar needs.

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  1. Anonymous

    My 2 centivos…It would seem to me that you would want to use "than me" more if the sentence and thought stopped after me. But "than I" would be of better use if you wanted to elaborate more in your sentence and extend the verbage like in your example above with "than I am…." I base my opinion and Layman grammar skills solely on how things sound. Also depending on how you plan to speak the words I can see the use of "than I" is better used if it is used in conjuction with a form of attitude and you want to use a certain type of speaking style. In the end no one should give a shitz 🙂

    Grand Master Grammarian Clyde

  2. Anonymous

    Excuse me, I have to regurgitate my bolus of nourishment…

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