Should we sic the Gramman Nazis on T.S. Eliot?

Should it be:
LET us go then, you and I


LET us go then, you and me?

Someone is bound to correct me on this (or at least try). “Let us / let’s” is a cohortative construction. In this case, the subjects are made explicit in the appositional construction. Since the referent of “let us” is subjective in this phrase, it is necessary that this should be:

“Let us go then, you and I”

For everyone’s information: This is a great site to bookmark for linguistic references.

This is my first attempt at hyperlinking, so don’t ridicule me if it is all wrong.

Here it is

Sorry, the last link will only get you to the ‘A’ section of the glossary.

If we’re going to sic the grammar nazis on one poet, I don’t see what is stopping us from siccing them on a ton of other poets who broke obvious rules (see e.e.cummings).

Maybe we should [sic] them instead, to keep with the theme…

Anyway, when it comes to poetry the rules of grammar don’t have to apply. I believe this is called poetic license. :slight_smile:

Heh heh heh. You said Gramman.

T.S. Eliot thinks he’s famous because he’s a genius…

oh - that was my 100th post!

Seriously, dude. You thought “you and I” was wrong?

Now go reread that wonderful work of literature and write a not-less-than-10-page essay about its meaning for the next class.

Exapno Mapcase gave this assignment to you and me.
Exapno Mapcase gave this assignment to you and I?

This land is your land.
This land is my land.
This land was made for … you and I?


But “us” corresponds to “me”, not to “I”. And you would say “let me go then”, not “let I go then”: first person imperatives are “let me” or “let us”.

There hasn’t been a cite given that shows why the second part, “you and I”, should be in the subjective case, and the first part “us” in the objective case.

Of course, it is common in certain places to use “you and I” as the object of a verb or with a preposition (“between you and I”), just as it is common to say “Me and John went bowling”. But they are generally considered incorrect.

Aah, but “let me go” has an implied “you” at the start. And the meaning of “let” is different in both cases. I’m pretty sure that, technically, imperatives only exist in the 2nd person.

Because it is “I go” and “you go”. I’m not sure exactly what grammatical function “let us” is functioning, but if you take “us” to be objective, then what is the subject of the sentence? Obviously it is “us” (or, more precisely, the subject is “we” thanks to apposition ;)) as otherwise there would be none: “let” and “go” are both verbs.

you could sic the grammar nazis on Pound, but he’d like it :slight_smile:

“let us” is a first-person imperative*: English doesn’t have a true imperative case for the first or third person (unlike many languages). The first person imperative is expressed as “let us”; this is arguably constructed out of a second-person imperative (no one is specifically being addressed to let anyone do anything, suggesting the form is an idiom for the first person imperative, rather than a second-person imperative, but it does have the form of a second person imperative).

If you view this simply as a second-person imperative, then “us” is clearly the object, and would definitely be replaceable by “you and me” and not “you and I”. Imperatives don’t normally have subjects (except in constructions as “you take us to the boss”, where “you” is subject and “us” object. for this construction see section 2, note: pdf)

I did wonder if “you and I” could be the names of people being addressed (like “let us go then, Tom and Sally,” said to Tom and Sally) but that doesn’t seem likely (never in all my years have I heard someone addressing themselves “I” - they might use “self”, or even “come on, me”.)

*At least according to the Oxford Reference Grammar, Sidney Greenbaum and Edmund Weiner (ed.), Oxford University Press, 2000.

I wrote a rather long response, hit "submit,’ and next thing you know, server error. Damn!

Instead of rewriting the whole thing, I’ll just give you the main idea.

There seems to be some confusion on this site over “let us.” It can be used in two different ways: “Mom, please let us go to the candy store,” or “Hey Satisfying Andy Licious, let’s go to the candy store.”

This is peculiar to English. Think about other languages and how they express “let’s.” So - we can see that the “us” in “let us” can be either objective or subjective.

The T. S. Elliot passage uses the latter, i.e., the “cohortative” construction (also known as the first person imperative to the participants in this thread). In this case, the phrase in apposition would also have to be subjective: “Let us go then, you and I.”

It is easy to be confused about this, since we use the contraction “let’s” when we use the cohortative. The T. S. Elliot uses the uncontracted form.

If I am being unclear, please let me know.

Thanks to everyone who replied.
Obviously I am going to have to brush up on apposition, objective and subjective, cases, etc. I’m trying to distill a very concise rule that would explain when to use “me” and when to use “I.”

As for the assigned not-less-than-10-page essay about its meaning for the next class – I had it all ready, really I did, but it was eaten by a pair of ragged, scuttling claws.

Concise Rule: If you’re doing the verb, use “I”. if the verb’s doing you (hey, whatever does it for you… ;)) then “me”.


“John and I are going to the shops” (I am going)

“Would you (Smith) like to come with John and me?” (Smith’s coming).

Hope that helps.

I think Eliot meant to write:

LET us go then, you and me,
When the evening is wobbling upon the sea
Like a patient etherised upon a weeble;

Are you saying that “us” is subjective? Since “let us go” is an idiomatic construction, it’s not immediately clear what the status of “us” is in the construction. The cohortative or first person plural imperative is constructed like a second person imperative where “us” is the object, and although it isn’t a true second person imperative the words “let” and “us” have the same grammatical function.

In circumstances where “us” is used, the equivalent single version is usually “me” not “us”. I may have been a bit hasty in saying that “us” in the quote could be replaced by “you and me”, since the idiom possibly does not function with “let me”. This approach may be a blind alley.

Taking a different track, consider the following example of common English:

“That man did it, him.”

Here, “him” is in apposition to “that man”, but it is objective while “that man” is subjective.

In ordinary English, the objective is commonly used in pointing out or identifying people: thus “we’re going to the park, John and me.” or the somewhat dialectal “I’m happy, me.” (c.f. also the French “Moi, je suis joyeux.”). As to the correctness of this idiom, it resembles but may not be identical to saying “It’s him”, where some grammarians say we should be saying “It’s he”.

Since Eliot was a poet, and had aspirations to be a member of the English upper classes, he would doubtless say “it’s he”, so he might be entitled to say “you and I”.

Following the arguments, I’m less certain about “you and me” than I was, but I’m still not convinced by “you and I”.

If we want to avoid the debate over “let us”, I think the last three words in Eliot’s construction are close to those in “We’re going to the park, you and me” or “We’re going to the park, you and I”, where I can’t decide which sounds more correct (although the latter sounds posher).

To clarify, if “Me, I’m going to the park.” or “We’re going to the park, you and me.” are correct, then “Let us go then, you and me.” is also (almost certainly) correct.

However, it is harder to prove something is ungrammatical than to prove it is grammatical, except by asking native speakers if it sounds funny.