The Right Pronoun to Use (Case)

Pronoun Case

Pronouns are words that Americans often carelessly use in their speech. The problem is that the use of pronouns must be very clear when we write. Many times the writing will be misunderstood; at best, the writer will appear uneducated.

A major problem with pronouns is the use of the wrong case. In English certain pronouns are meant to be the subject or predicate nominative of a sentence. Other words are meant to be the objects--whether direct, indirect, objects of prepositions, or object complements.

Pronouns used as subjects or predicate nominatives (nominative case):

I, you, he, she, it, we, they, who

Pronouns used as objects (objective case):

me, you, him, her, it, us, them, whom

Some things are really obvious. All English speakers know we say "I like him," not "Me like he." But there are four common problem areas with pronoun case: compounds, appositives, predicate nominatives, and who/whom.

Compound Subjects and Objects with Pronouns

If we know that "Me like him" is incorrect, then that also means that "Katy and me like him" is incorrect. The word I belongs in the subject. The sentence should read "Katy and I like him." Similarly, the subject in "Katy and we like him" is correct.

Politeness says that the I, we, me or us comes last.

If the sentence had some kind of compound object the sentence would read: "Katy likes Joe and me," not "Katy likes Joe and I."

After all, we would say "Katy likes me," not "Katy likes I." Similarly the object in "Katy likes the Johnsons and us" is correct.

Pronouns with Appositives

Sometimes a descriptive noun phrase called an appositive will follow a personal pronoun. Keep the proper case of the pronoun.

We do not say: "Us want ease of use."

We say: "We want ease of use."

Therefore we do not say: "Us computer users want ease of use."

Instead, we should say: "We computer users want ease of use."

The Chronicles of Narnia says: "Come in front with us lions." That is correct. We say "with us," not "with we," so we should say "with us lions."

Pronouns in the Predicate Nominative

In standard written English, the personal pronouns in the predicate nominative are the same as they would be in the subject. Most Americans do not speak this way, but it is grammatically correct.

The nominative case follows a linking verb to rename the subject.

Incorrect: The winner was her. (Objective case)

Correct: The winner was she. (Nominative case)

She is a predicate nominative. It uses the same case as the subject since it simply renames the subject.

Even though we may often say, "It's me" the grammatically correct way is "It's I."

Who and Whom

Who and whom correspond to he and him. Who is the subject or predicate nominative. Whom is the object.

Correct: Who are you? (Subject)

Correct: Whom do you see? (Direct object)

Correct: Whom did you give it to?
(Object of preposition to)

Correct: Who did that? (Subject)

It may help you to recall that who follows the same pattern as he and they. When all three are in the objective case, they end with m: whom, him, them.

This same pattern applies when you add the suffix -ever or -soever:

Correct: Whoever dies with the most toys wins.

Correct: He gave that ticket to whoever asked for one.
(Subject of asked)

Correct: Pick whomever I tell you to. (Direct object)

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