I recently overheard a conversation between a mother and her young boy. The boy said, “My teacher is always picking on Ben and me.”
His mother wagged her finger and replied sternly, “You mean ‘Ben and I‘.”
Had I a cell phone with me, I’d have called Children’s Protective Services: that poor boy is going to grow up having no idea how to handle his pronouns. We can only hope that his tyrannical teacher will correct his misguided mother’s lesson.
What’s a Pronoun
It’s a word that replaces a noun. We need them to avoid endless repetition of nouns. For example, in the following sentence, the pronouns are his and he:
“Ben asked his teacher when he had to hand in his essay.”
Without pronouns, we’d have to write horrible sentences like:
“Ben asked Ben’s teacher when Ben had to hand in Ben’s essay.”
Subject or Object?
Pronouns change, depending on whether they describe the subject or the object of the sentence. For example:
Subjective pronouns: he, she and I
Objective pronouns: him, her and me
So we get:
- I like her
- She likes him
Almost everyone gets this right. In fact, getting it wrong sounds laughable:
- Me like she
- Her likes he
But wait… add one more person and all hell breaks loose.
Dealing with more than one person
Confusion arises when there are two subjects or two objects. It’s funny, but we’d never say:
- “Me am going to the store”, or
- “The teacher is always picking on I”
But for some reason, many people will say,
- “Me and Bob are going to the store”, and
- “The teacher is always picking on Ben and I”
Yet these forms are equally wrong! Luckily, the solution is simple.
Just remember that you use the same pronouns, even if there are extra people involved.
So when you’re not sure what’s right, just pretend there’s only one person (subject or object):
- [Bob and] I am/are going to the store
- The teacher is always picking on [Ben and] me
Remember this simple trick, and your teacher will never have to pick on you again.