One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Each of the pronouns in English (I, you, he, she, it, we, they, me, him, her, us, and them) comprising a set that shows contrasts of person, gender, number, and case.
- ‘The play on personal pronouns throughout re-emphasizes both the fluidity of separate selves and the elusiveness of communion.’
- ‘He makes use of three different personal pronouns - I, you, and he - to indicate a single person.’
- ‘The manuscript should resemble an extemporaneous speech with short, relatively simple sentences and paragraphs, personal pronouns and occasional colloquialisms.’
- ‘More importantly, she altered the impersonal tone of Chinese verse, inundating her translations with personal pronouns.’
- ‘Using the feminine personal pronoun as an indefinite article is as moronic as using the masculine personal pronoun for personification.’
- ‘It's a personal pronoun used with the verb ‘to be’.’
- ‘If you'll excuse me, isn't the singular personal pronoun a more useful device in that sentence?’
- ‘And there is an irritating mannerism, in which he uses the feminine personal pronoun in place of the indefinite pronoun, that gradually wore on my nerves.’
- ‘The verb form accompanying this personal pronoun is different from its equivalent in standard Spanish.’
- ‘First of all, it leads to the notion that you cannot express yourself directly and spontaneously and sincerely with the use of the personal pronoun.’
- ‘Even in his e-mail, personal pronouns relating to Serena are capitalized, while those relating to Peter himself are always in lower case.’
- ‘In the best poems, the personal pronoun is invoked unapologetically and effectively.’
- ‘One reason historical linguists are skeptical of this claim is that it's so easy to find languages in which personal pronouns have undergone a lot of change.’
- ‘There are ten personal pronouns people use to address one another.’
- ‘Such use of personal pronouns lends the installations a strange potency.’
- ‘This formality is in part caused by the Czech language, which has two forms of the second-person personal pronoun.’
- ‘Unfortunately, English has no sexless personal pronoun, so the default of masculine is chosen.’
- ‘The next step was to proscribe my use of the personal pronoun in the same way.’
- ‘Correct discourse in the US now demands that the gender of non-specific personal pronouns should alternate.’
- ‘There are so many personal pronouns, each one denoting an exact relationship between speaker and subject, that even the most brilliant student cannot master them all.’
The correct use of personal pronouns is one of the most debated areas of English usage. I, we, they, he, and she are subjective personal pronouns, which means they are used as the subject of the sentence, often coming before the verb (she lives in Paris; we are leaving). Me, us, them, him, and her, on the other hand, are objective personal pronouns, which means that they are used as the object of a verb or preposition (John hates me; his father left him; I did it for her). This explains why it is not correct to say John and me went to the shops: the personal pronoun is in subject position, so it must be I not me. Using the pronoun alone makes the incorrect use obvious: me went to the shops is clearly not acceptable. This analysis also explains why it is not correct to say he came with you and I: the personal pronoun is governed by a preposition (with) and is therefore objective, so it must be me not I. Again, a simple test for correctness is to use the pronoun alone: he came with I is clearly not acceptable. (See also between.) Where a personal pronoun is used alone without the context of a verb or a preposition, however, the traditional analysis starts to break down. Traditionalists sometimes argue, for example, that she's younger than me and I've not been here as long as her are incorrect and that the correct forms are she's younger than I and I've not been here as long as she. This is based on the assumption that than and as are conjunctions and so the personal pronoun is still subjective even though there is no verb (in full form it would be she's younger than I am). Yet for most native speakers the supposed ‘correct’ form does not sound natural at all and is almost never used in speech. It would perhaps be more accurate to say that, in modern English, those personal pronouns listed above as being objective are used neutrally—i.e. they are used in all cases where the pronoun is not explicitly subjective. From this it follows that, despite the objections of prescriptive grammarians (whose arguments are based on Latin rather than English), it is standard accepted English to use any of the following: Who is it? It's me!; she's taller than him; I didn't do as well as her.
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