Thursday, February 3, 2011

English teacher


You may already know that I spent last week at the Blissdom conference in Nashville. I want to tell you about a little moment 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).
Examples:
  • 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.

Examples:

  • 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."

Examples:

  • 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.

  1. My husband and _____ (I or me) just celebrated our anniversary.
  2. 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.

20 comments:

Bonita said...

I enjoyed this grammar lesson in particular because it's something I actually know and use (most of the time). I didn't know all the terminology and couldn't explain it nearly as well as you, but I'm just so proud that I can say I actually know a grammar rule. Yay!

And I'm jealous that your met Melissa!

Holly said...

Ha ha, that "Charlie bit me!" video is so cute!
I must confess that I was lost when you were using the technical terms (subjective pronoun, objective case), but as soon as you got to "Sally and I", I was with you!
I don't really have to think about it, but if I'm trying to explain it to someone I use the same method of taking the other person out of the sentence.

Jennifer Juniper said...

This is exactly how I figure out whether to use "I or me" - just take out the other name! I had one for you that I thought of the other day, but I've forgotten it already :(

Melissa Stover said...

i think you're so right about teaching the polite way to say the other person's name first is probably why people use "I" when they should use me.

love this lesson.

Mrs M said...

I loved this post! I am not an english teacher - but you are so right! Lovely blog. :)

Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

I'm still amazed that they gave me a degree in English, but I guess it's okay since my focus was on literature. I had an awful English teacher in 6th grade, and I think I tried to block a lot of the technical terms from my memory. BUT, I was totally with you when you gave the examples at the end. The I/Me dilemma is a tough one!!! Great post. :)

FrouFrouBritches said...

Again, loving this series. My dad hounded me about this one until I got it right....finally. I always have to stop and leave Sally out to make sure I'm getting it right. I'm SURE there are times when I forget and get it wrong. Thanks for the lesson!

melissa * 320 Sycamore said...

I would love for you to tell me what is not grammatically correct in my blog writing. Seriously! I have no clue. I try to make it sound right, but I don't think we had the greatest grammar lessons in Montana :) I know it goes against all the sweetness and goodness in you, but I would so appreciate it.

Shelly @ Life on the Wild Side said...

Oh my goodness! I didn't know you did a weekly grammar lesson. Hooray for grammar! (Although I know how it works, I just can't ever remember the proper names for the parts of speech. Ugh.) Anyway, this is a huge pet peeve for me, and I'm noticing more and more that kids are saying, "Me and him" or "Me and her" all the time. I hate it so much. The other person's name should always come first!

Karen said...

Very good! Me and my husband,...ok, I'm teasing. Every time someone in our family says something like this, my husband says, "is your husband mean?" I do teach my children at home, and English is one of my favorite subjects, but it seems like, in all these years, I always have to learn the terms over again! Now I have my own English teach to follow lol!

Jemsmom said...

This rocks!!! I taught my second graders how to correctly say it as a direct object by taking out the first name the way you did! Brilliant minds think alike! My pet peeve after living in Michigan was everyone says, "These ones" and "Those ones". I don't know if it is actually correct or not, but it drives me nuts!!!

Carmen @ Life with Sprinkles on Top said...

It always bugs me when people caption their photos "This is my mom and I in Hawaii" or whatever. You don't say "This is a picture of I in Hawaii". :)

Paula said...

I love this series. You make the rules of grammar so clear and easy to understand. I'll bet that you were fabulous in the classroom!

Betty said...

Another way to remember not to say "Me and Sally" is, if you say it quickly, it sounds like Mean Sally. Since Sally really isn't mean, ... (lesson learned from an 86-year-old substitute teacher in 1958).

Cherdecor said...

I just found your lovely blog today and was excited to find a grammar teacher.
I love your grammar lesson and I have a question for you. Is it proper to say...
If I WERE you
OR
If I WAS you?

I thought I learned "if I were you"
was correct, but I see everyone on the blogs using "if I was you."

Could you please help me out here?
Thank you so much.

Leslie @ goodbye, house! HELLO, HOME! said...

oh dear! were you cringing at my dangerous decorating post?
cannot use the shift button-ugh.
to answer your queries:
i can paint, but with my right hand, and i'm right-handed, so no excuses for me, right?
the whole bag of 8.5 yards of bouillon fringe was 50 cents, yes!!!
mr. broyhill will get his due, don't worry. i have some sanding, scraping and putting on of some stinky stuff, for him in store.
i think the part of grammar that you covered today is probably the most difficult for people to grasp.
glad you're here to help us all!!!
p.s. i do answer the phone correctly.
blessings to you, sugar!
~me

His Doorkeeper said...

Richella, Thanks for your note. I inadvertently deleted your comment because I was reading it on my iphone and they have "publish" and "delete" too close for my pudgy fingertips!

I have been in Florida all week at a pastor's conference. I was delighted that you met Melissa @ A Familiar Path.
She was one of the first "bloggers" I met in real life several years ago! We live in the same state...just I'm up North and she's down South!! She is so cute, smart, talented and has a darling family to boot!!

I bet you had a great time in Nashville!

We are snowbound today! And they are calling for more to come! Woo Woo!

My only sister was an English teacher for many YEARS...now she is a history teacher. She is an old-school teacher and literally pulls her hair out at the way kids write (or lack of writing skills) today! She always says you can't get them to even capitalize an "I" when they are talking about themselves!

Blessings! Stay warm!

kp said...

And here I though I was the only grammar nerd left floating around...

Anonymous said...

I love that you wrote this. This is a big pet peeve for me. I see this used wrong in professional writings as well and it makes me cringe

Tara G. said...

I'm not an English teacher, but we had very strong schooling in this area (I had a semester of grammar only in h.s. in addition to our required literature classes!). It's too bad they can't have little grammar clips on TV for the general public! :)

Post a Comment

Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment! I read every one; they make my day. If you have a specific question, please be sure your email address is attached to your profile or leave your email address in the comment; I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Every blessing!