Yet More Pronoun Pitfalls



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

Two weeks ago, 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 Tuesday, September 22, 2020, at 11:00 pm

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2 Comments on Yet More Pronoun Pitfalls

2 responses to “Yet More Pronoun Pitfalls”

  1. Ann F. says:

    “Unfortunately, there’s more”? Wouldn’t you need to say “there are”?

    • We can see you’re a careful reader as that’s a good observation. However, this is a matter of writer’s intention. In this first sentence of the fourth paragraph, the author is linking to the next sentence and essentially saying Unfortunately, there’s more pronoun confusion to be had in the area of comparisons. (We can understand reading it as Unfortunately, there are more confusing pronoun situations.)

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