My Two Cents

Beryl Cuda asks who gave you permission to put “me and Doofus” in charge of a sentence?

by Jan 5, 2012Craft, Grumbles7 comments

I didn’t, that’s for sure.

On my list of things that make my blood pressure peak, my nostrils flare and my index finger want to start wagging, improper use of pronouns is number one. Without a doubt.

Nothing irks me more than people who say “Me and Doofus watched the ball game today,” or “Me and her watched the game.” Or any of the other improper uses of a pronoun as the subject of a sentence, when it is meant to be used ONLY as an object.

Perhaps the problem originated with our relaxed conversational use of pronouns when answering questions such as “who’s there?” You’ll most likely hear the response “it’s me.” The grammatically correct response would be “it is I.”

The rule is that linking verbs such as “to be” are followed by the subjective pronoun (I, she, he, we). However, the response “it is I” sounds excessively formal for many situations, and recently the use of the objective pronoun has become more acceptable.

I say “it’s me” all the time. Except when I’m talking to the Queen. I’m telling you this so that you will see that I can be flexible. I’m not a grammar tyrant. Really, I am not.

But.

Whether or not “it’s me” is an acceptable response to certain questions, the use of “me and her,” or “me and Doofus,” or similar combinations, as the subject of a sentence is absolutely not acceptable. Full stop.

As in, stop doing it. Right now.

Here’s the rule:

The pronouns “me,” “him,” “her,” “them,” and “us,” are objective pronouns. They are used only as objects of a preposition or verb. They are the target of the action. “John threw the ball to me,” “John hit me,” or “John and Tim came to visit us.”

Only subjective pronouns (I, he, she, they, we) can be the subject of a sentence, that is, in charge of the action.

It is not “Me and Doofus watched the game,” or “Me and her watched the game.” Rather, it is: “Doofus and I watched the game,” or “She and I watched the game.”

Here’s how to analyze when to use which pronoun:

Drop the “and Doofus” and try the sentence with just “me.” Would you say “Me watched the game?” No, never. If you would never say “Me watched the game,” then you will never say “Me and Doofus watched the game.”

The same test can be used for two pronouns, such as “me and her” – try the sentence without “me and.” Would you say “Her watched the game?” No, never.

When using “I” in combination with other pronouns or proper nouns, the correct placement is to put “I” after the other pronoun or proper nouns: She and I; Dave, John and I; and so on (rather than “I and Doofus,” or “I and she”).

Me and Doofus. That’s what riles me today. Do your bit to help me manage my blood pressure. Stop putting “me and Doofus” in charge of sentences.

Until next time. Don’t write good. Write well.

About Beryl: 

Beryl Cuda might, just might, be my grumpy alter ego – the one I use to rant about things that rile me.

Many things in life rile me. Like dirty laundry blocking the path to the wine cellar. Bad wine. Weak coffee. Rain for five days straight. Lost luggage. You get the idea.  But there’s much about the way people today treat the English language that riles me more. 

 

7 Comments

  1. Kaye Linden

    I don’t like what is happening to the English language … I thought about taking some grammar classes again. The other day I had an argument about the plural of “sister-in-law” – I insisted it was “sisters-in-law” but the well educated and well-spoken individual insisted I was wrong. She said it is “sister-in-laws”

    What IS happening to the spoken and written language? What about “gotten” – bad English….. oh, dear…now I’m raving…no it’s ranting…. no it’s… Kaye

  2. Kelly Davio

    Too funny–I love your “me and doofus” example! As someone who teaches grammar all week, I salute your efforts to uphold the sanctity of the nominative case pronoun. 🙂

  3. Claire Gebben

    Excellent clarification, Beryl. Here’s the pronoun conunundrum that gets me every time: Is it: “Bradley and Sarah write better than I” or “Bradley and Sarah write better than me”? I always thought it was supposed to be “better than I” as in, “better than I do.” But a critiquer once said: “that really riles me, when people get that wrong” and proceeded to make a big inky mark on my sentence. So, is the pronoun supposed to be the object of the preposition “than,” making it “better than me”? So confusing.

  4. Charlotte Morganti

    Hi Claire, Jumping in here for Beryl…. you are correct. The correct form would be “better than I” because the “do” is understood. Strunk and White back you up. So send that critiquer a big ink splotch!

  5. Charlotte Morganti

    Thank heaven there are grammar teachers like you Kelly! Or we’d be in a lot worse shape. Fight on!

  6. Charlotte Morganti

    I’m with you, Kaye — the plural is sisters-in-law.

  7. Kaye Linden

    That’s an example of the difference between the spoken word and the written. Would you say “better than I” in spoken language?

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