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TIPS AND TRICKS

 


 

PROBLEMS WITH PERSONAL PRONOUNS

 


 

Personal pronouns can be tricky. People tend to be fairly comfortable identifying the difference between subjects and objects but at times find it difficult to know when to use which. Here is a basic layout of what’s what:

 

Personal pronouns:

 

 

  Subject

  Object

  1st person sing.

  I

  Me

  2nd person sing.

  You

  You

  3rd person sing. (male)

  He

  Him

  3rd person sing. (female)

  She

  Her

  3rd person impersonal

  It

  It

  1st person plural

  We

  Us

  2nd personal plural

  You

  You

  3rd person plural

  They

  Them

 

In most cases, people don’t have much trouble knowing when to use the proper pronoun. For example,

  • I gave the ball to him.
  • She likes them.

 

Other times, however, some may find knowing which pronoun to use a bit more difficult.

 

 

PRONOUNS FOLLOWING PREPOSITIONS

 

Always use the object pronoun after prepositions.

  • They sent the letter to her.
  • That present is from them.
  • How about we keep this between you and me?

 

 

COMPOUND CONSTRUCTIONS

 

Sometimes writers become confused by multiple subjects or objects. Observe:

  • *Mario and me went to the castle to save the princess.
  • Rewrite: Mario and I went to the castle to save the princess.

 

A simple trick consists of removing the other subject to see if the sentence still makes sense.

  • Mario went to the castle to save the princess.
  • *Me went to the castle to save the princess.

 

The same works for objects.

  • *That pizza is for Michelangelo, Leonardo and I.
  • That pizza is for Leonardo.
  • That pizza is for me. Therefore,
  • Rewrite: That pizza is for Michelangelo, Leonardo and me.

 

TRICK: For multiple subjects/objects, you can also substitute the singular pronouns for the combined plural pronoun to see what makes the most sense.

  • *Between you and I, I don’t particularly like the yellow Power Ranger.
  • *Between we, I don’t particularly like the yellow Power Ranger.
  • Between us, I don’t particularly like the yellow Power Ranger. Therefore,
  • Between you and me, I don’t particularly like the yellow Power Ranger.

 

 

COMPARISONS

 

People also tend to use the wrong pronoun in comparisons. The trick is to remember to complete the sentence (because they often have omitted information).

  • *She is a better gamer than me.
  • Rewrite: She is a better gamer than I [am].
  • *He plays Pokémon as much as me.
  • Rewrite: He plays Pokémon as much as I [play Pokémon]. 

 

Using the wrong pronoun could also change the meaning of the sentence.

  • She likes him more than me.
  • She likes him as much as me.

 

When we include the omitted words, the use of me (the objective pronoun) becomes clearer.

  • She likes him more than [she likes] me  .
  • She likes him as much as [she likes] me.

But,

  • She likes him more than I.
  • She likes him more than I ­[like him].
  • She likes him as much as I.
  • She likes him as much as I [like him].

 

This sentence means something completely different. Writers should be wary when using comparisons and be sure to use the correct pronoun as to not confuse readers.

 

 

IT/THAT CONSTRUCTIONS

 

In theory, the nominative case should always follow the verb to be, but this rule is not usually followed. Observe:

  • *It is me at the door.
  • Rewrite: It is I at the door.
  • *It could have been her.
  • Rewrite: It could have been she.
  • *Was that him on the phone?
  • Rewrite: Was that he on the phone?

 

That being said, this rule is rarely followed (especially in speech) to the point that it sounds awkward and stilted when used properly. Instead, try rewording the sentence to avoid these types of constructions.

  • It is I at the door.
  • Rewrite: I am at the door.
  • It could have been she.
  • Rewrite: She could have been the one.
  •  Was that he on the phone?
  • Rewrite: Was he the one on the phone?

 

 

REFLEXIVE/INTENSIVE PRONOUNS

 

These include:

 

  1st person sing.

  Myself

  2nd person sing.

  Yourself

  3rd person sing. (male)

  Himself

  3rd person sing. (female)

  Herself

  3rd person impersonal

  Itself

  1st person plural

  Ourselves

  2nd personal plural

  Yourselves

  3rd person plural

  Themselves

 

Reflexive pronouns are used when the subject and object are one and the same.

  • Zack got himself in trouble by using his cell phone in class.
  • The animals fooled themselves into thinking they could escape from the zoo.

 

Intensive pronouns are identical to reflexive pronouns. They are used to emphasize the nouns or pronouns and in most cases are found right next them.

  • He himself must face the giant spiders.
  • We are going to do it ourselves.

 

Never use reflexive/intensive pronouns for cases other than the two mentioned above. You can use the same tricks (seeing if the subject/object makes sense alone or in another form) to see if the sentence is correct.

  • *The space ships are for Obi-Wan and myself.
  • Rewrite: The space ships are for Obi-Wan and me.
  • *Both her husband and herself would like to become pirates.
  • Rewrite: Both she and her husband would like to become pirates.

 


 

PRACTICE

 


 

Correct the subject/object pronouns in the following sentences, if needed.

 

1. We were going to give the prizes to him and themselves.

Sample answer

 

2. It was me who won the tournament last year.

Sample answer

 

3. They were here before Mark and I.

Sample answer

 

4. Bert talks to Ernie more than her.

Sample answer

 

5. The queen would much rather you do it yourself.

Sample answer

 

6. We all went to the beach together, Sebastian, Flounder and I.

Sample answer

 

7. We ourselves are the only ones up for the task.

Sample answer

 

8. Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben made my brother and me breakfast and lunch.

Sample answer

 

9. Me and her go to the same school.

Sample answer

 

10. Was that her shouting?

Sample answer

 


 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 


 

Einsohn, Amy. The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006.

 

Flick, Jane and Celia Millward. Handbook for Writers. 3rd Canadian ed. Toronto: Harcourt Brace & Company, Ltd., 1999.

 

Messenger, William E. et al. The Canadian Writer’s Handbook. 5th ed. Toronto: Oxford University Press Canada, 2008.

 

The Chicago Manual of Style. 15th ed. rev. and expanded. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.

 


 

Created by: Diana Franz