Pronouns: Tricky Cases

Introduction

In our first lesson on pronouns, we looked at the eight different types of pronouns. This page covers some extra rules for those pronouns that especially give people trouble.

I and Me

The personal pronouns and me sometimes cause trouble when used in tandem with other nouns and pronouns.

For example, which of the following is correct?

They left some food behind for James and I.

They left some food behind for James and me.

It’s the second option that is correct. The reason is that me is an object pronoun and receives the action of the verb. If you test each pronoun by itself, you can easily tell which one’s correct:

They left some food behind for I.

They left some food behind for me.

So when in doubt, just take away the other noun or pronoun and see whether you need or me. Here are some correct sentences to peruse:

She and I went to the movies.

Mia gave Esther and me a taste of her own homemade cough medicine.

My girlfriend and I would love a massage.

The police pulled aside just Karen and me.

Who and Whom

The personal pronoun whom confuses many people. What is it for?

Simply put, who is a subject pronoun and whom is an object pronoun. Specifically, whom is the object of either a verb or a preposition:

The principal gave whom a medal?

To whom were you talking?

As with and me, there is a simple test you can do to check which one you need. Try substitute “him/her” and “he/she” and see what that sounds like. For example, in the above example you could say “The principal gave him a medal.” That’s because “him/her” are object pronouns, and function in the same way as whom. By contrast, “he/she” are subject pronouns, and are similar to who.

In daily speech we often use who instead of whom, and it may happen that even in writing whom will one day disappear from use. For the time being, though, you’ll want to know what whom is for. That way you won’t make any embarrassing mistakes.

Exercises



 

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