Columns » Words

Words July 28

by and

comment
Mauzel Beal of Conway writes: “I continually hear people using the nominative case of personal pronouns when it should be the objective case. Many newspaper articles make the same mistakes. Examples: They invited Tom and I (should be Tom and me). Here is a present from he and Anne (should be him and Anne). A simple test to give oneself when wondering which pronoun to use is ‘Would I say They invited I or A present from he? ’ ” Beal is correct, of course. But a colleague reminds us there’s another way of looking at these things. “I made a reservation by e-mail at a hotel in London. I asked for a double room ‘for my wife and I.’ When I printed out the exchange and showed it to her, she said she was embarrassed to check in to a British hotel with someone who abused the king’s English so badly. “I’m not looking for absolution of the phrase, though I’d note that better people than me (I) refuse to be held hostage to the petty conventions of grammar, spelling and table manners. What I’m looking for is a good retort.” How about “You’re not the boss of me”? No, that wouldn’t do. I know this couple, and she is the boss of him. The best advice I can offer our writer is to take comfort in knowing that the language police — including his wife — are unarmed. They can scold you, but they can’t shoot you. Incidentally, the writer raises an interesting question with his “better people than me (I)” comment. Which is it? In theory, than is only a conjunction. That would require the use of I in the example. But, “Success With Words” says, “than is unmistakably becoming also a preposition.” That would mean me. SWW recommends: “Only an old-fashioned minority now say You’re no better than I or He’s older than she in their natural everyday speech. If, like most people, you naturally say You’re no better than me and He’s older than her, don’t correct yourself. … In highly formal, especially written, usage, than I, than she, etc., are still preferred.”

Add a comment

Clicky