Sometimes to Deconstruct Is the Best Way!

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Last week, a neighbor of mine announce that he was getting to go to lunch with another friend of his. “Bill (not his real name) said he’d take Barbara and I to lunch,” he said with almost uncontrollable excitement.

I bit my tongue as I counted to ten, trying to stifle the urge to blurt out the error in his speech. Maybe my neighbor can read minds, or he saw the look in my eyes, because he, knowing that I’m a stickler about grammar, quickly corrected himself.

In English, pronouns can take on one of three cases: The subject case, the object case and the possessive case. The latter two cases are referred to as the oblique cases.

Why can’t people remember that when you use a transitive verb, one which requires both a subject and one or more objects, you must use the object case?!?

You wouldn’t say, “His and They are taking the kids to the pool,” would you? It wouldn’t make sense!

I offer an easy rule to determine into which case to put the pronoun(s). Take the sentence, “Aunt Sally and Uncle Dave will take their nephews and neices to the park with Mike.”

Aunt Sally and Who? will take Whom? to the park with Whom? Let’s break it down, shall we?

  • You wouldn’t say “Aunt Sally and him took…” You’d say “Aunt Sally and he took…”
  • You wouldn’t say “took they to the…” You’d say “took them…”
  • You wouldn’t say “to the park with he.” You’d say “to the park with him.”

When you have pronouns as objects, as in the case, “with him and me,” if you’re concerned that it might be “with him and I” or “with he and I,”  remove the first pronoun and say it again. You would know right off the bat that you shouldn’t say “with I,” right?

The same thing is true when you use a transitive verb. Take “hit,” for example. You wouldn’t say, “Mom, little Johnny was hitting I as I crossed the street,” would you? So why would you even consider saying, “Little Johnny was hitting Sheila and I as we crossed the street?” Remove Sheila. Take her out of the equation, and you should be able to inherently know what the correct case of the pronoun should be.

 How ’bout it?

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3 Comments on “Sometimes to Deconstruct Is the Best Way!”

  1. Justin Davis Says:

    Interesting post, Mark. I’ve always wondered about this. In grade school, you’re taught (at least, I was) that any time you’re talking about yourself and someone else, it’s always “Jane and I”; using “me” is wrong. Thanks for clarifying this!

    Although, now it sounds weird to say “They are going to take she and me to the beach”, but I’m assuming that’s correct? I suppose the rhyme screws me up.


  2. Actually, Justin, it should be “They are going to take HER and me to the beach.” If you replace the two pronouns with the first person plural object pronoun “us,” it will sound much better to you.

    Thanks for your comment!

    -m

  3. dschinker Says:

    As a self-proclaimed “Grammar Geek” (http://12amusings.wordpress.com/2007/08/29/grammar-geek/), I always find the following technique helpful: break the phrase down into two sentences. It works every time!

    For example, in the comments above, they are discussing the sentence, “They are going to take ____ and ____ to the beach.” One option presented was “she and me,” but if you break it down, it would be, “They are going to take she to the beach” (obviously wrong) and “They are going to take me to the beach” (correct). By breaking it down this way, you can quickly figure out that the correct phrasing is, “They are going to take her and me to the beach.” It sounds weird, but is grammatically correct.

    The other thing I like about this method is that everyone can use it. Your ear is often correct and you don’t have to worry about which grammar rules apply!


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