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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 A.
As we discussed last time, in formal English, It’s me is wrong, and It’s I is correct. In such sentences, pronouns linked by
any form of the verb to be are equivalent to subjects—but me is an object pronoun. If It’s me were correct,
then we’d also have to say, “Me am it.”
Down through the years, correct pronoun usage has been of little concern to the masses, who would rather drink from Lake Erie than say, “The culprit
was they, but we thought it might be he.”
Having dealt last week with the havoc that the verb to be wreaks in sentences with pronouns, let’s look now at another disruption to correct
English: compound subjects and compound objects that contain pronouns.
A compound subject is two or more nouns or pronouns joined most commonly by and or or. Joe and I is a compound subject. It is
correct in Joe and I went fishing.
Joe and her
is a compound object. It is correct in The group chose Joe and her.
Here is an easy, foolproof way to get such sentences right: Remove the noun and say the sentence with just the pronoun. Without the nouns, the two
sentences are a breeze: I went fishing and The group chose her. Using this method exposes incorrect sentences such as It was up to Joe and I and Either me or Joe will help, because we’d never say, “It was up to I” or “Me
One more thing: It is always wrong to mix subject and object pronouns, such as “her and I.” In an oft-heard sentence like “Her and I arrived,” it’s clear that I arrived is correct, but no one would say “her arrived,” so the sentence
requires she, the subject pronoun: She and I arrived.
More on finding the correct pronoun next time…
Due to the E-Newsletter's large readership, please submit your English usage questions through GrammarBook.com's “Grammar Blog.”
Correct any wayward compound subjects or objects.
1. Me and him went to the game.
2. The dog was always with Vinnie and I.
3. May my wife and me join you for dinner?
4. Either you or him must be willing to help.
5. Alice and me were who it was meant for.
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Pop Quiz Answers
1. He and I went to the game.
2. The dog was always with Vinnie and me.
3. May my wife and I join you for dinner?
4. Either you or he must be willing to help.
5. Alice and I were whom it was meant for. (whom is the object of the preposition for)
Learn all about who and whom, affect and effect, subjects and verbs, adjectives and adverbs, commas, semicolons, quotation marks, and much more by just sitting back and enjoying these easy-to-follow lessons. Tell your colleagues (and boss), children, teachers, and friends. Click here to watch.