"Than I" or "Than Me"?

Our Story
The Quick Answer
Should you write "than I" or "than me"?

"John is taller than me" and "John is taller than I" are both correct. However, some of your readers might think that "John is taller than me" is wrong (even though it sounds natural), and some of your readers might think that "John is taller than I" sounds pretentious. The safest option is to expand the sentence after the "than." For example:
  • John is taller than I am.
  • (This construction will satisfy all your readers and remove any ambiguity (more on ambiguity below).)
than I versus than me?

"Than I" or "Than Me"?

Authors often ask whether they should write "taller than me" or "taller than I"?

The quick answer is both are correct, but not everyone agrees that both are correct, and that's the problem. Here's the issue: the word "than" can be classified as either a conjunction or a preposition, and that's the root of the debate.

"Than" as a Conjunction

When "than" is used as a conjunction, it looks like this:
  • John is taller than I am.
or
  • John is taller than I.
    (This is just a more succinct version.)

"Than" as a Preposition

When "than" is used as a preposition, it looks like this:
  • John is taller than me.
Grammarians have been arguing for hundreds of years over whether "than" is a conjunction or a preposition. Here's the bottom line. It is perfectly acceptable to write:
  • "than I"
  • (This means the following are also acceptable: "than he," "than she," "than we," "than they.")
or
  • "than me"
  • (This means the following are also acceptable: "than him," "than her," "than us," "than them.")

"Than Me" Sounds More Natural

For most people, the "than me" version sounds more natural than "than I." However, "than me" is the version that runs the higher risk of being considered wrong. This is almost certainly because the "than I" version has been in use longer and seems more grammatically correct. For some though, the "than I" version sounds pretentious. So, there are some factors to consider before choosing, without any definitive guidelines.

Avoiding Ambiguity with "Than Me"

Unfortunately, it's not as simple as doing whatever you want and, if challenged, claiming that the world's grammarians have been squabbling for hundreds of years over this issue. There is another issue to consider. Sometimes, the "than me" version introduces ambiguity. Look at this example:
  • John likes Peter more than me.
  • (This sentence is ambiguous. So, we've marked it as wrong.)
This could mean:
  • John prefers Peter to me.
or
  • John likes Peter more than I like Peter.
The best way to avoid any ambiguity is to treat "than" as a conjunction (i.e., use the "than I" version) and write out the sentence in full. For example:
  • John likes Peter more than he likes me.
or
  • John likes Peter more than I like Peter.

Than Whom

There is another quirk. Nobody wants to write this:
  • You like him more than who?
Everyone agrees it should be:
  • You like him more than whom?
So, when "who" is the pronoun in question, "than" should always be treated as a preposition, and you should write "than whom."

The Final Advice: Expand Your Sentence

The best option is to use the "than I" version and expand the sentence after "than I." This usually means adding at least the verb (e.g., "than I am," "than I was," "than they have"). This structure removes all ambiguity and stops your wording sounding pretentious.

  • John is taller than me.
  • (This is okay, but some of your readers won't like it.)
  • John is taller than I.
  • (This is okay, but a few of your readers won't like it, and some will think it sounds pretentious.)
  • John is taller than I am.
  • (No one can argue this version, and it portrays you as a clear thinker. We've given this one a tick.)
Here is an ambiguous example that needs fixing.
  • John rates Peter more than I.
  • John rates Peter more than me.
  • (Both of these examples are ambiguous.)
Here are two corrections:
  • John rates Peter more than I do.
  • (No one can argue this version, and it portrays you as a clear thinker.)
  • John rates Peter more than he rates me.
  • (No one can argue this version, and it portrays you as a clear thinker.)
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

What are conjunctions? What are prepositions? What are verbs?