Case refers to the form of a word and how it functions in a sentence. The English language has just three cases: subjective, objective, and possessive. Subjective pronouns include I, we, he, she, they, and who. These words act as the subject of a sentence or clause [He told me not to go]. Objective pronouns include me, us, him, her, them, and whom. They serve as the object of verbs and prepositions. Examples:
Tom gave the book to me. [me is the object of the preposition to]
Tell me everything you know. [me is the object of the verb Tell]
Possessive pronouns include my, our, his, her, their, etc. [This is her car]. Be careful to determine the correct case of each pronoun by its use in its own clause. Look at this sentence, for example:
Me and my husband went to the movies.
Here the writer has used the objective case of a pronoun—me—when he should have used the subjective case—I. Also, the sentence sounds better if you change the placement of the subjects I and husband:
My husband and I went to the movies.
You use the subjective case—I—because that word functions as a subject in the sentence. The pronoun me is in the objective case, as it is in this sentence:
My husband told me about the movie. [object of the verb].
When you have a compound construction (between you and me, to Mary and him), you’ll find it easier to choose the correct pronoun if you remove one of the components, as in this sentence:
She gave lots of money to Tom [I? me?].
Then you should see that the correct pronoun to use is me, even if you don’t remember the rules.
Notice that the form (the case) of each pronoun does not change when it is made a part of a compound construction even in expressions that may sound odd to you [Let’s you and me go to the movies].
Being aware of prepositions will help you to choose the correct pronoun case—the objective case. Common prepositions include about, above, across, after, against, along, among, around, as, at, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, beyond, by, down, during, except, for, from, in, inside, into, like, near, next, of, off, on, onto, out, outside, over, through, to, toward, under, underneath, unlike, until, up, upon, up to, with, within, and without.
Pronouns with the word like
Here’s another problem that involves the word like and pronouns. The word like is a preposition. Remember to use objective pronouns as objects of prepositions. Look at this sentence:
She’s a former model, like you and I.
The word I should be changed to me in this sentence because like is a preposition, which should be followed by a pronoun in the objective case. Also note that you do not substitute myself for I or me.
Pronouns after the words as and than
Consider this sentence:
He is stronger than me.
The choice of the pronoun form is important to meaning in such sentences, which have implied (rather than stated) elements. Formal usage still requires the use of the subjective case of pronouns in sentences like this one (the subjective case is always used when the verb is a form of to be). So it should read:
He is stronger than I.
The implied word in this case is am:
He is stronger than I [am].
Look at this sentence:
He knew that the man would speak to Mr. Thornton and himself.
Notice the ungrammatical use of himself, which is a reflexive pronoun—one that ends with -self or -selves. Such pronouns reflect back on an antecedent, either a subject or an object. Example: She washed herself with soapy water. Reflexive pronouns should not be substituted for personal pronouns such as I, you, me, she, they, them, and it. Examples:
My wife and I [not myself] had a long talk.
She told my brother and me [not myself] to leave the room.
According to this rule, then, the sentence above should be changed to read, “. . . speak to Mr. Thornton and him.”
Note: Do not confuse reflexive pronouns with intensive pronouns, which are used to emphasize another word by making it more intense in meaning. Examples:
The doctor felt that his career itself was on the line.
Somehow she managed to speak to the president himself.
I myself would never do such a thing.
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