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Yet More Pronoun Pitfalls

This is part five 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.

Two 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 It could be her to the formally correct It’s I and It could be she.

Last week, we showed that in colloquial sentences with compound subjects or objects, personal pronouns are routinely confused, resulting in faulty usages such as Him and Joe went fishing or It happened to my wife and I. We also cautioned against mixing a subject pronoun with an object pronoun joined by and or or, as in her and I or either he or us, because in such constructions, one of the pronouns will always be wrong.

Unfortunately, there’s more. In many comparative sentences, pronoun confusion is an unwelcome byproduct. Two common troublemakers are as and than. Sentences like She works as hard as me and I’m luckier than him sound fine to most people—but not if we repeat the verb: no one would say, “She works as hard as me work” or “I’m luckier than him is.” Adding the verb confirms that the strictly proper usages would be She works as hard as I and I’m luckier than he.

Now consider I depend on you more than him. It’s correct if the subject (I) thinks you’re the one who is more dependable. But if the intended meaning is “I depend on you more than he depends on you,” than he would be the choice.

Back in the sixties, the Beatles sang, “I must be sure from the very start that you would love me more than her.” They meant, “I must be sure that you would love me more than she loves me.” But a close reading reveals that they said something spicier: “I must be sure that you would love me more than you love her.”

So be careful: a humble pronoun used incorrectly may create a major distraction.

 

Pop Quiz

Find the grammatically correct pronouns.

1. She’s as capable as I/me.

2. My little brother looks older than he/him.

3. I’d rather give it to you than to Bill or they/them.

4. You must trust him more than we/us, because we’re not at all sure about him.

5. He’s not honest with either of us. He’d lie to you as sure as I/me.

Pop Quiz Answers

1. She’s as capable as I.

2. My little brother looks older than he.

3. I’d rather give it to you than to Bill or them. (them is the object of to)

4. You must trust him more than we, because we’re not at all sure about him. (than we do)

5. He’s not honest with either of us. He’d lie to you as sure as me. (as sure as he’d lie to me)

Posted on Monday, October 28, 2013, at 1:29 pm


6 Comments

6 Responses to “Yet More Pronoun Pitfalls”

  1. Melanie C. says:

    The kindergarten teacher at school uses the word she in the place of “her”

    Example:

    They will be going home with she.

    I had never heard of this before and I wondered if you had a section of the grammar usage of SHE.

    I would never dream of correcting her grammar. I just want to know the proper usage of the word she in a sentence.

    • Jane says:

      Our Rules 1 through 3 of “Pronouns” clearly demonstrate the difference between subject pronouns such as she and object pronouns such as her. You may find these rules both at our GrammarBook.com website and in our book, The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation.

      In the sentence, “They will be going home with she,” she is the object of the preposition with, therefore the object pronoun her should be used, not the subject pronoun she.

      This is a basic grammar error. You are in an awkward position, but considering that this person is a kindergarten teacher, someone in authority must correct this teacher. Otherwise, the grasp of basic grammar for these young students could be compromised now and for the future.

  2. Olivia O. says:

    Which is correct, If I were she or if I were her?

  3. Paul M. says:

    Whoa! In the fifth paragraph you said:
    Now consider I depend on you more than him. It’s correct if the subject
    (I) thinks you’re the one who is more dependable. But if the intended
    meaning is “I depend on you more than he depends on you,” than he would be the choice.

    Surely you don’t mean “than” as the sixth-from-last word.

    • Jane says:

      This is not a matter of than vs. then. The paragraph is about which sentence is correct: “I depend on you more than him” or “I depend on you more than he.” The words than he, which are the sixth and fifth from the last words, respectively, in the fifth paragraph, are simply a shorter way of writing “I depend on you more than he.”

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