Persnickety Pronouns (Part Three)


Pronouns come in many different flavors, and I’ve talked about them in the past two posts. (Part 1, Part 2, in case you missed them.)

Today I’m talking about pronoun case.

There are three options: possessive, subjective (nominative), objective. This is where the notion of form vs. function comes in.

Form is the type of word; function is the job the word does in the sentence.

Let’s look at the word she for example. In form, the word is a pronoun. In function, the word is most likely a subject or predicate nominative. How do we know what? Easy! Pronoun case!

Let me give you a nice chart to start us off. Sound good?

Person Subjective/Nominative Objective Possessive
1st person I, we me, us my, mine, our, ours
2nd person you you your, yours
3rd person he, she, it, they them their, theirs
Relative/Interrogative who, whoeverwhich, that, what whom, whoeverwhich, that, what whose

Isn’t that handy?

Let’s start with the subjective case.

The subjective case is used for the subject of a verb and as a predicate nominative.

Example: I kicked the ball to her.

In this sentence, is the subject of the verb, so we want to use the subjective case.  That’s the easy one.

Example: a telephone conversation


“May I speak to Melissa?”

“This is she.”

In this example, she is what is called a predicate nominative. Basically, that means it is a word that renames the subject but comes in the predicate of the sentence.

Who also falls in this category.

Let’s move on to the objective case.

The objective case is used when the pronoun takes the object position in a sentence.

Our choices for objects are: direct object, indirect object, and object of a preposition.

A direct object receives the action of the verb directly.

Example: Sally kicked me.

In this example, me is the direct object because it is receiving the action of the verb, what is being kicked.

An indirect object is the person/thing that something is given to or done to. It comes between the verb and the direct object.

Example: Sally kicked me the ball.

In this example, me is the indirect object because the ball (the direct object) is what is being kicked. However, me is the one to whom the ball is kicked.

The object of a preposition generally comes after the preposition, but not always. We will talk about prepositional phrases in more detail in a later post.

Example: Sally kicked the ball around me.

In this sentence, around me is the prepositional phrase, and me is the object of the preposition. (It’s what is being gone around.)

Whom also falls into this category.

Example: To whom should I address the letter?

Now, it sounds pretty easy, but people have trouble with these things! A lot of the time, people will say things like, “Tom is going to the concert with Jack and I.” That sounds an awful lot like someone trying to use proper grammar, but the problem is that it isn’t proper at all! Since with is a preposition, the other words in the phrase fall into the object category. Thus, it should be with Jack and me. A neat trick is to isolate the pronoun and see which case makes sense. In the previous example, would you say, “Tom is going to the concert with I”? Certainly not!

Let’s try a quick quiz!

Choose the correct answer from the pair. Explain your choice.

  1. It is up to (I, me) to make the decision.
  2. The only people on the panel were (she and I, her and me).
  3. I sent (she, her) the letter.
  4. The teacher made (Mary and I, Mary and me) clean the chalkboard.
  5. Let’s keep this between (you and I, you and me).

Post your answers in the comments, but don’t look ahead! That’s cheating. Don’t make me get my ruler.


1 comment to Persnickety Pronouns (Part Three)

  • sagablessed

    Choose the correct answer from the pair. Explain your choice.

    1 Me Objective It is up to (I, me) to make the decision.
    2 She and I Subjective The only people on the panel were (she and I, her and me).
    3 Her Nominative I sent (she, her) the letter.
    4 Mary and I Subjective The teacher made (Mary and I, Mary and me) clean the chalkboard.
    5 You and I Subjective Let’s keep this between (you and I, you and me).