You may already know that I spent last week at the Blissdom conference in Nashville. I want to tell you about a little moment I shared that thrilled my English teacher's heart.
I was talking with a beautiful woman, Melissa (from the funny yet sublimely lovely blog A Familiar Path). I mentioned my weekly grammar series, and Melissa told me that she was once an English teacher. You can imagine how my ears got all pointy like a retriever's. She went on to say, "My pet peeve is that so many people use a subjective pronoun in the objective case." At this point, my heart swelled within my chest; I think I may have danced a jig on the spot and embarrassed Melissa.
Pronouns are some of the most useful little words in the English language. Can you imagine trying to get through the day without ever using such words as I, me, you, he, she, we, or they? Gosh, our speech would be so stilted without these words!
For the most part, the use of pronouns comes very naturally to us. But Melissa was right: the one troublesome point is knowing when to use subjective pronouns and when to use objective pronouns. Here's the run-down on that point:
You need to use a subjective pronoun (I, you, he, she, they) as the subject of a sentence or phrase or following a linking verb (is, am, are, was, were, be).
- I love chocolate.
- They left town this morning.
- This is she. (Think about how you learned to answer the phone!)
Use an objective pronoun (me, you, him, her, them) as a direct or indirect object of a sentence or the object of a preposition. Prepositions are the connecting words used to build phrases that usually describe relationship of some kind. Some common prepositions are about, at, before, between, by, for, from, of, on, to, and with. The word or words following a preposition are the objects of the preposition. When you use a pronoun as the object of a preposition, you need an objective pronoun.
- Charlie bit me! ("Me" is the direct object of bit.)
- Pam made me a pillow. ("Me" is the indirect object of made.)
- This book is all about her. ("Her" is the object of the preposition about.)
Now, here's where it gets tricky. When you were very small, you probably said to your mom something like, "Me and Sally are going to ride our bikes." And your mom probably said, "Don't say 'me and Sally'; say 'Sally and I.'" She was trying to teach you that it's polite to say the other person's name first, then say your own name. She was right about that. And she probably had to tell you this rule of courtesy a number of times before you got it. The important part of that lesson was being polite, not using good grammar. But you need to know that you should say "Sally and I" ONLY when you need the subject of a sentence or phrase. If "Sally and I" are serving as the object of a phrase, then you need to switch to "Sally and me."
- Mom baked cookies for Sally and me.
- Please take a picture of Sally and me.
- If you have any questions, just ask Sally or me.
There's an easy way to know whether to use "Sally and I" or "Sally and me." Just take "Sally" out of the sentence for a second. Would you say, "Mom baked cookies for I"? "Please take a picture of I"? Or "Just ask I"? No, of course you wouldn't; you would naturally say "me" instead of "I." So if you would naturally say "me," then you should use "me" in conjunction with the other person's name.
Your mom was right: it IS polite to say the other person's name first. But choose to add "I" or "me" based on how you're using the words in a sentence.
Here's an example: "Let's keep this just between you and I." Between is a preposition, so you need an object of the preposition. The correct wording is "between you and me."
Here's a little quiz for you.
- My husband and _____ (I or me) just celebrated our anniversary.
- I love this photo of my husband and _____ (I or me) from our wedding day.
If you answered "I" for number 1 and "me" for number 2, you're right!
Do you have a grammar question you'd like for me to answer or a grammar pet peeve you'd like for me to address? Please let me know! I'd love for these lessons to be a blessing to you.