How to Avoid Pronoun Errors: The Grammar Patrol Shares Favorite Bloopers
We (Edith Hope Fine and Judith Josephson) are the Grammar Patrol. Both of us taught for years and are now writers, with thirty plus books between us, including our two popular grammar guides, Nitty-Gritty Grammar and More Nitty-Gritty Grammar. For close to twenty years, we taught writing and grammar basics and now we blog about grammar for writers.
The Grammar Bear
When our Nitty-Gritty Grammar guides first came out, we hit seven bookstores in one day along with our Grammar Bear, thanks to Guy Hill Cadillac. Such fun. Along the way people shared their top grammar pet peeves. Ever since, we’ve collected bloopers heard and seen today. This month we’ll focus on the (alliterative!) preponderance of pronoun problems. We’ve omitted names and sources to protect the guilty. Spot the bloopers before reading the explanations!
• “What would you say to the idea of you and I becoming friends?”
We hear pronouns used incorrectly so often they start to sound correct. The word “of” is a preposition. Prepositions take objective pronouns (me, you, him, her, whom, us, them), not subjective pronouns (I, you, he, she, who, we, they). The secret is in the words themselves: subjective and objective. Subjects and objects! (Luckily, “you” stays the same whether subject or object.)
So here’s the fix: We like the idea of you and me becoming friends!
• “That’ll buy Rick and I enough time.”
Vacuum out “Rick.” Would you say, “That’ll buy I enough time”? “That” is the subject of the sentence. Use the objective “me”: “That’ll buy Rick and me enough time.”
• “Jason introduced you and I back in 2010.”
Jason is the subject. He did the action. “You and I” are used as objects of the verb “introduced.” Wait a sec! Objects! We can’t use “I” as an object. We need objective pronouns: Jason introduced you and me.
• “One of the differences between Mark and I is that I flunked and he didn’t.”
Remember Edith’s mom’s ditty: “Between thee, me, and the gatepost.” “Between” is a preposition. You know that prepositions take objective pronouns: between Mark and me.
• “Being in this play gave my son and I a chance to work together.”
Change the subject (“Being in this play”) to “it.” Would you say, “It gave I a chance to work together with my son”? No: “It gave me a chance . . .” Make this sentence “Being in this play gave my son and me a chance to work together.”
(For those inquiring minds deeply into grammar: The subject, “Being in this play,” is a gerund phrase: the gerund “being,” plus the prepositional phrase “in this play.”)
• “Who should I serve next?”
Do a turnaround: I should serve who/whom next. Since “I” is the subject, the question of the person to serve is the object. Quick trick: Substitute a different pronoun. Would you say, “I should serve he” or “I should serve him”? Him, because it’s the objective pronoun: Whom shall I serve next?” (Or: “Who’s next?!”)
• “Her and Ms. Dickerson now get along fine.”
Glide now from objective to subjective pronouns. The two women are the compound subject of the sentence. Use a subjective pronoun: “She and Ms. Dickerson get along . . .”
Send us bloopers you spot! Next month, capital fun with capitals.