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Pronoun rules are worth a second look to you and me

January 09, 2004|by LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

Is it me or is it I?

When selecting a singular pronoun, most people pick I, thinking that it sounds correct in almost every situation.

Or, they pick "myself," opting to write or speak around the choice.

Example No. 1: Sally and I will go to the store. (Correct)

Example No. 2: She will meet Sally and I at the store. (Incorrect)

Example No. 3: At the store, Sally, Betty and myself will shop. (Let's just not go there, OK?)

I chuckled recently while reviewing the proper use of pronouns with my son, who's 8. He said, "Mommy, this is so easy, I don't need to study it."

I explained to him that it's worth studying so he'll remember it later on. Then I told him that most adults can't get it right.

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He gave me a you've-got-to-be-kidding look, but before 48 hours had ticked by, I had two examples of poor usage to share with him.

A radio announcer used the statement, " ... they are just like you and I."

He should have said, " ... they are just like you and me."

(Perhaps he was thinking of the song, "Just You and I" and thought "I" always should be used with "you.")

The previous day, a businessperson sent me an e-mail stating, "... you may contact her or myself."

He should have written, " ... you may contact her or me."

I credit this pronoun confusion to a couple of things:

1. Many of us are so far removed from grade school that we can't remember what we learned there.

2. Some of us never learned it in the first place.

3. Others are so afraid of sounding like a toddler - think Caillou on PBS: "Me do it!" "Me first!" - they're hesitant to use the word "me."

That's unfortunate because there are times when "me" is the only choice.

For example, the correct way to write example No. 2 is, "She will meet Sally and me at the store." Me is used because it is part of the sentence's object, "Sally and me."

It all boils down to the case, or the form, of a pronoun. To get technical, "I" is nominative case, "me" is objective case and "my" or "mine" is possessive case.

Try this: Think of "I" as the subject of a sentence and "me" as the object of a sentence.

I is a subject pronoun. Me is an object pronoun.

Subjects typically come at the beginning of a sentence, and objects typically come toward the end.

However, this is English, and there always are exceptions.

In example No. 3, the subject is in the middle of the sentence because it follows a prepositional phrase, "At the store." The subject should be "Sally, Betty and I."

Confused? Try this: Drop prepositional phrases and make compound subjects (those with more than one person, place or thing) singular. Get down to the bare bones of a sentence to double-check your choice of pronoun. If the sentence sounds funny in bare-bones form, it's probably wrong.

Example No. 1 becomes, "I will go."

Example No. 2 becomes, "She will meet me." You wouldn't say, "She will meet I."

Example No. 3 becomes, "I will shop." You wouldn't say, "Myself will shop."

Likewise, the radio announcer wouldn't say, "... they are just like I." Or, the businessman wouldn't write, "you may contact myself."

It becomes even more interesting when pronouns are used with prepositions: between, near, around, against, behind, of, among, without, concerning, from, to, etc.

These words are followed by an object pronoun: me, you, him, her, it, us, them.

Between you and me, that's a lot to remember, but the rules are worth reviewing.

No more second-guessing the I-me choice when you write or speak.




Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com.

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