Learn English – “Who wants ice-cream?” — Should I say “(not) I” or “(not) me”


With the enthusiastic question of "Who wants ice-cream?", what is the more correct response?

  1. (Not) I.
  2. (Not) me.

Neither response is a sentence. The first response of "(not) I" sounds stuffy, like it should be followed with an indignant sniff. The second sounds like American idiom and acceptable for casual speech.

What do you say?

Best Answer

Generally speaking, in English, accusative (also known as “objective”) pronouns (like me) are the “default” form. That is, unless there is a specific syntactic rule requiring use of a different case, such as nominative (I), genitive (my/mine), or reflexive/intensive (myself), in English you use the accusative case.

In the syntactic context where a pronoun is not serving a role relative to an explicit verb, such as when it is the simple answer to a question, or if one is labeling something, such as a photo, accusative pronouns are standard. “Who wants to come?” “Me.” Nominative pronouns are impossible here—you cannot answer the question “Who wants to come?” with “I”, nor would anyone label a photo “I”.

This holds even if negated: “Who wants ice cream?” “Not me.”

If you want to use the highest register, most formal English, however, you should avoid the question of what case to use with pronouns standing alone, and use a complete sentence: “I do not want ice cream.”

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