Grammar Hotline Question of the Week

I’m wondering if the use of “me” in the following sentence has become acceptable: "He was ten years older than me." I think it should be “I” or “I was.” But I hear “me” so often, even from well known writers, that I’d like your opinion.

You are correct to say that the pronoun should be "I," a subject pronoun, rather than "me," an object pronoun. As you indicate, one could also use "I was"; conversely, we could not say "me was." The following rule from Real Good Grammar, Too (RGG2)applies: "A pronoun which comes at the end of the sentence following than or as should be in the subject case when it is the subject of an understood verb" (p. 139). In your sentence, the pronoun "I" is the subject of the stated or unstated verb "was."

It should be noted that object pronouns can follow the words "than" or "as," but they have to be functioning as objects in the sentence. For example, "The noise didn't bother Michael as much as her" (RGG2, p. 142), the implication being that "the noise didn't bother Michael as much as [it bothered] her. That is, the noise bothered her; so in this instance, you wouldn't be able to say "the noise bothered she is" or "the noise bothered she does."

And, no, this usage (He was ten years older than me), though quite common, especially in spoken English, is still unacceptable in academic and business communication - whether spoken or written.

updated January 21, 2015