Category: Pronouns

We the People, or…?

Posted on Tuesday, October 20, 2020, at 11:00 pm

For much of the last two months, we have been analyzing why the subject pronouns I, he, she, we, they and the object pronouns me, him, her, us, them are chronically misused and confused. In this final installment, we'll deal with flawed sentences like Politicians should respect we the people and It's a happy outcome …

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Expressing Possession of Gerunds

Posted on Tuesday, October 13, 2020, at 11:00 pm

A gerund is the present participle (-ing) form of a verb functioning as a noun in a sentence. Example: He responded by laughing. (The gerund "laughing" is the noun object of the preposition "by.") A gerund phrase is a gerund plus another element such as an adverb, an adjective, or a noun. Example: Saving money …

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Two More Reasons Pronouns Plague Us

Posted on Tuesday, October 6, 2020, at 11:00 pm

For several weeks now, we’ve been counting the ways that pronouns give us nightmares. Today we’ll look at two more culprits: infinitives and verbs that end in -ing (known technically as participles and gerunds). To form an infinitive, precede a verb with the word to. The infinitive of look is to look. Constructions like to …

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Expressing Possession Greater Than One

Posted on Tuesday, September 29, 2020, at 11:00 pm

Communicating joint ownership can be a grammatical no-man’s land for many of us. Whether we were listening, speaking, or writing, we’ve probably found ourselves with statements similar to these: Chuck and Joe’s vacation resorts are in South America. Chuck’s and his vacation resorts are in South America. Theirs and Marla’s meetings are on Tuesday. Marla …

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Yet More Pronoun Pitfalls

Posted on Tuesday, September 22, 2020, at 11:00 pm

This is another in a loose series detailing the difficulty of mastering pronouns. Even simple sentences can include snares that distract us from distinguishing between subjects and objects. Four weeks ago, we showed that pronouns linked by any form of the verb to be wrongly become objects in everyday English, which prefers It's me or …

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Shape-shifting Troublemakers

Posted on Tuesday, September 8, 2020, at 11:00 pm

No nouns in our language behave like pronouns. The most common subject pronouns (I, he, she, we, they, who, whoever) all become different words (me, him, her, us, them, whom, whomever) when they are objects. Colloquial English has always thumbed its nose at proper English. A seemingly innocent everyday sentence like It’s me is Exhibit …

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I Subject, Your Honor

Posted on Tuesday, August 25, 2020, at 11:00 pm

In past discussions of who-whom and whoever-whomever, we passed along a handy memory aid: who (and whoever) = they; whom (and whomever) = them.* That's fine as far as it goes, but it goes nowhere unless we can tell a subject (they) from an object (them). One reason that distinguishing between subjects and objects is …

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To Restrict or Not to Restrict: That Is the Question

Posted on Tuesday, July 7, 2020, at 11:00 pm

Who, that, or which; restrictive or non-restrictive: Most of us have at some point had to grapple with interpretation, pronoun choice, and punctuation for a statement containing essential or non-essential information. For example, what would be succinct within the following statements? Jayla always orders the surf and turf that the master chef prepares for her. …

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Sweating the Small Stuff

Posted on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, at 11:00 pm

At a football game a few years ago, the University of Notre Dame sold soda in cups that said, "Figthing Irish." Did no one at this distinguished school have the time or pride to proofread a two-word slogan? Here are a few other items we've seen and now wish we hadn't … Back to Basics  …

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Pronoun Tips

Posted on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, at 11:00 pm

Pronouns take the place of nouns. Subject pronouns: I, you, he, she, it, we, they Object pronouns: me, you, him, her, it, us, them Rule: Use a subject pronoun, not only as the subject of a sentence, but after to be verbs when the pronoun renames the subject. To be verbs: is, are, was, were, …

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Clearing the Air of Errors in English

Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2020, at 11:00 pm

The adage is true when it comes to our language: Old habits really are hard to break. Notwithstanding classroom instruction, lifelong reminders, correction from others, and even GrammarBook newsletters, certain misuses of English survive like drug-resistant viruses. Yet we grammarians and linguists march on. After all, even the Roman Empire had to give way—eventually. As …

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2019’s Word of the Year is Inclusive, Not Divisive

Posted on Tuesday, January 14, 2020, at 11:00 pm

Have you heard that Merriam-Webster chose the word they as the "Word of the Year"? And that it was chosen as the "Word of the Decade" by the American Dialect Society? We are not surprised. You probably recall that we ran three articles in July-August 2019 discussing the singular they (How Did They Get in …

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Picking Proper Pronouns: Part II

Posted on Tuesday, September 10, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Last week we began our review of using pronouns that help guide rather than trip our written eloquence. We started with pronouns as clause subjects, for objects, before assertive or attributive expressions, and after than or as.  Today we’ll look at pronouns before a gerund, for an infinitive, and for complements of forms of the …

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Picking Proper Pronouns: Part I

Posted on Tuesday, September 3, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Many of us have been there before: We're writing or speaking with confidence in our content. For a secret second, we might even feel, well, educated. Then, unbeknownst to us, improper pronouns leak in and sabotage the impression we were making. Worse yet, we may not know how or why our eloquence tripped. Using the …

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Singular They Part III

Posted on Tuesday, August 13, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Thank you to the many readers who commented thoughtfully on both How Did They Get in Here? (July 3, 2019) and How Can They Be Singular? (July 31, 2019). Today we'll wind up our discussion of the singular they, including modern arguments for its use. When we ran this series in 2015, we received little …

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