Pronoun Case

The personal pronouns change their forms depending on how they function in a sentence. When a personal pronoun functions as the subject of a verb (the doer of the action), it takes the form of the subjective case: I, he, she, we, they: I know Mort. He knows Jadwiga. She knows Abigail. We know Abigail and Cecil. They know Cecil.

When the personal pronoun is the object of a verb (the receiver of the action) or the object of a preposition (with, for, to, etc.), it takes the form of the objective case: me, him, her, us, them: Mort knows me. I know him. Jadwiga knows her. Cecil and Abigail know us. Jadwiga and Abigail know them. Note that it and you don’t change their forms in the objective case. The objective case is also used after prepositions: for me, with her, from them.

Before an –ing form of the verb that is used as a noun (a gerund), use the possessive case (my, your, his, her, its our, their): my smoking, your driving, our inviting, etc.

Errors often occur when pronouns are paired with nouns: My brother and me went to the store. To spot the error, drop “My brother and”—I went to the store > My brother and I went to the store.

Whoever = he or she; Whomever = him or her. You have to decide how whoever/whomever is functioning in its own clause: Give the prize to whoever comes first. [Whoever is the subject of the verb “comes”—he or she comes first.] Give the prize to whomever the judges select [Whomever is the object of the verb “select”—the judges select him or her.]

 

Choose the correct word:

 

  1. Abigail assumed that her mother and (her/she) would be chosen Mother and Daughter of the Year.
  2. Jadwiga and (I/me) love to read, but she likes mysteries better than (I/me).
  3. (We/Us) grammarians live in mortal fear of being caught in an error.
  4. If you notice any errors, alert the editor or (I/me/myself).
  5. Everybody except (he/him) ordered chocolate covered bees for dessert.
  6. Colbart’s sister told Mort that she appreciated (him/his) telling Colbart to get lost.
  7. Do you mind (me/my) smoking during the examination, Doctor?
  8. The mugger passed up (whoever/whomever) was wearing scuffed shoes.
  9. I will vote for (whoever/whomever) the party nominates.
  10. Unlike (I/me/myself/), Samantha avoids reading the latest health studies.

 

Answers:

 

  1. she Drop “her mother and,” and you have “she would be selected…”
  2. I, I The first “I” is the subject of the verb “love.” The second “I” is the subject of the understood verb “like”: …she likes mysteries better than [I like mysteries]. Unless she actually likes mysteries better than [she likes] me.
  3. We Drop “grammar columnists,” and you have “We live in mortal fear…”
  4. me Drop “the editor or,” and you have “alert me…”
  5. him “Except” is a preposition and requires the objective case.
  6. his It’s not Mort she appreciated, but Mort’s (his) telling Colbart to get lost.
  7. my It’s the smoking that is in question. Whose smoking? My smoking.
  8. whoever The whole clause “whoever was wearing scuffed shoes” is the object of “passed up,” and “whoever” is the subject of the clause.
  9. whomever The entire clause “whomever the party nominates” is the object of “support,” and “whomever” is the object of “nominates.”
  10. me The object of the preposition “unlike” is “me.” The pronoun “myself” is reflexive and is used only to refer back to a subject: “I injured myself.”

 

Choose the correct word:

 

  1. The cat’s howling is driving my wife and (I/me/myself) to distraction.
  2. This problem needs to be resolved by the staff and (I/me/myself).
  3. The organizing committee and (I/me/myself) would like to thank you all for attending.
  4. Like (I/me/myself), you probably cringe when you hear pronouns being misused.
  5. Three employees—Gladys, Hyacinth, and (I/me/myself)—were chosen to represent the department.
  6. Only Hyacinth and (I/me/myself) actually attended the first meeting.
  7. The big difference between my opponent and (I/me/myself) is that I tell the truth.
  8. If you have any questions, please call Mr. Crabtree or (I/me/myself.)
  9. Either my brother or (I/me/myself) will be happy to help you with your garden.
  10. The entire program was prepared by (I/me/myself).

 

Answers: 1. me  2. me  3. I  4. me 5. I  6. I  7. me  8. me.  9. I  10. me

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Pronoun Case

  1. For this one: “Give the prize to whoever comes first. [Whoever is the subject of the verb “comes”—he or she comes first.] ” ……… Ya, but it’s the object of the verb “give” …. “Give the prize to whomever ….” So how is a pedant to decide?

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  2. Pedant is probably the right term. The distinction between “who” and whom” is rapidly disappearing from English–in spoken English it’s all but gone. Only old farts like us care about the objective case anymore. But old farts are still doing a lot of editing, so it’s not a bad idea to understand how it works. The object of the preposition “to” in this sentence is the entire clause “whoever comes first.” “Whoever” is clearly the subject of the clause. The object of the verb “give” is “the prize.”

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