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Author Topic: The need to avoid mixed-case usage in English - I  (Read 136 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: October 07, 2017, 10:47:00 AM »

Arguably one of the toughest things to learn about English is the matter of case, and I’d go as far as to say that this is why even native English speakers often bungle their pronoun usage without becoming aware of it. The inevitable result is, of course, bad English.

So let me share with you my answer to the following question posed by a new member of Jose Carillo’s English Forum—her user name is Dessang—who works in a Philippine-based international school:   

“My colleagues (teachers) who are English native speakers always say: ‘You and me are...’ or ‘Me and my friend are going to...’ or ‘Between you and I…” This confuses me because I was taught that it should be ‘You and I are…’ or ‘My friend and I are going to…” and ‘Between you and me…’ Did I learn something wrong or miss out something in school? Or is the usage of my colleagues grammatically correct and I’m wrong?”

I told Dessang that even if her international school colleagues are native English speakers, they are grammatically wrong on all three counts—in how they compounded (combined) the subjects in “You and me are...”, in how they compounded the doers of the action in “Me and my friend are going to...”, and in how they compounded the objects in “Between you and I.” The correct way, I reassured her, is the usage she described: “You and I are…”, “My friend and I are going to…”, and “Between you and me…”


But it’s rather complicated to show why her colleagues are wrong, so I told Dessang that it’s very important to be very clear first about what case in English is. Indeed, this is the only way to find out what grammar rules are being violated by her colleagues.

So, to answer Dessang’s question, I made the following extensive discussion of case:

Remember now that in English, case is any of the three forms that a noun, pronoun, or modifier takes to indicate its functional role in a sentence, whether nominative or subjective, objective, or possessive. It cannot be overemphasized that in sentence construction, a clear understanding of these case forms is crucial to the proper compounding of nouns and pronouns.



1. Nominative or subjective case – Nouns or pronouns are in the nominative case when they are the doer of the verb’s action in the sentence, and in the subjective case when they act as its subject.
 
Examples – Noun in nominative case: “The woman slapped him.” (The noun “woman” is in the nominative case because it is the doer of the action).  Pronoun in nominative case:She slapped him.” (The pronoun “she” is in the nominative case because it is the doer of the action).

Noun in subjective case: “The woman is lovely.” (The noun “woman” is in the subjective case because it is the subject of the sentence). Pronoun in subjective case:She is lovely.” (The pronoun “she” is in the subjective case because it is the subject of the sentence).

2. Objective case – Nouns or pronouns are in the objective case when they receive the verb’s action, whether as direct or indirect objects.

Examples – Noun in objective case as direct object: “The woman slapped Mario.” (The noun “Mario” is in the objective case, serving as direct object of the verb “slapped”). Pronoun in objective case: “The woman slapped him.” (The pronoun “him” is in the objective case, serving as direct object of the verb “slapped”).

Noun in objective case as indirect object: “The woman slipped Mario a note.”
(The noun “Mario” is in the objective case, serving as indirect object of the verb “slipped”).
Pronoun in objective as indirect object: “The woman slipped him a note.”
(The pronoun “him” is in the objective case, serving as indirect object of the verb “slipped”).

We’ll continue this discussion in the second of three installments.

(Next: The need to avoid mixed-case usage in English – II)  October 9, 2017

This essay, 682nd of a series, first appeared in the column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the March 13, 2010 issue of The Manila Times, © 2010 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
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