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Author Topic: Dealing with annoying English grammar errors (11th in a series of 14)  (Read 90 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: December 11, 2017, 10:25:20 PM »

This is the 11th in a series of 14 essays on what I consider as the most annoying English grammar errors. It is running consecutively here in the Forum from November 7, 2017 every Tuesday and Friday until December 22.

6 – Usage of nouns or pronouns in the wrong case (1)

The use of nouns or pronouns in the wrong case is the seventh major source of annoying grammar errors in English. For a meaningful discussion of grammar errors of this type, however, let’s first make a quick review of what case is and the three forms it takes in an English sentence.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines case as “a distinct form of a noun, pronoun, or modifier that is used to express one or more particular syntactic relationships to other words in a sentence.” Since that definition may sound Greek to you (as it still does to me), and other dictionaries I consulted weren’t of much help either, I would like to offer this plainer and simpler definition of case: It 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.

THREE CASES IN ENGLISH FOR NOUNS AND PRONOUNS

Now we will remember from our English grammar that nominative or subjective pronouns are those that perform the verb’s action or act as the subject of a sentence:  “I,” “he,” “she,” “it,” “they,” “we,” “you” (singular), “you” (plural), and “one.” Examples: “I write.” “Gina is lovely but she is snobbish.” “Public office may look desirable but it can be a thankless job.” “The bidders fought viciously but they both lost the juicy contract in the end.” “We enjoyed the meal.” “You [singular or plural] don’t make sense sometimes.” “One wonders if the inquisitors meant well.”


The objective pronouns are those that receive the verb’s action or act as the object of a sentence: “me,” “him,” “her,” “it,” “them,” “us,” “you” (singular), “you” (plural), and “one.” Examples: “The company hired me.” “Regarding Bob and Alice, the company suspended him but not her.” “The cellular phone was very expensive but Mina bought it anyway.” “How come the Reyeses invited them but not us and you?”

And then the possessive pronouns are those that indicate who or what possesses or owns something: “mine,” “his,” “hers,” “its,” “ours,” “theirs,” “yours” (singular), “yours” (plural), and “one’s.” Examples: “This laptop is mine, this one is hers, and that one is his.” “The syndicate wants to develop all of the property together, not only theirs but ours and yours as well.” “One’s character is one’s fate.”

Now, a general rule in English grammar is that for a combination of a noun and pronoun to properly perform the action of a verb or receive its action, or for them to jointly act as the compound subject of a sentence, they should both be in the same case. Put more simply, we shouldn’t mix nouns and pronouns in different cases to do a particular grammatical function; they should all be nominative, objective, or possessive when doing a specific function.

SIMPLE TECHNIQUE FOR FIGURING OUT THE CASE FORM
OF THE PRONOUN IN A COMPOUND SUBJECT


Here are some quick examples to clarify this rule. A sentence that correctly combines two nouns in the nominative case: “Helen and George fell in love.” (That’s a no-brainer, of course.) One that correctly combines a noun and pronoun in the nominative case: “Helen and I fell in love.” (We don’t say “Helen and me fell in love” because it improperly mixes the nominative-case noun “Helen” with the objective-case pronoun “me.”) And one that correctly combines two pronouns in the nominative case: “You and I fell in love.” (We don’t say “You and me fell in love” because it improperly mixes the nominative-case noun “you” with the objective-case pronoun “me.”)

It seems then that applying the case rule is simplicity itself. But now let’s go to a real-world example of case usage, one that I picked up verbatim from a recent housekeeping magazine article: “After a couple of months, their newly acquired digital camera had gone missing from Mary Ann and her husband’s bedroom.”

I am inviting readers to figure out and tell me if the case usage of that sentence is grammatically and semantically aboveboard.

(Next: Usage of nouns or pronouns in the wrong case - 2)   December 15, 2017

This essay, 11th in a series of 14, first appeared in the column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the October 6, 2007 issue of The Manila Times. It subsequently formed part of the book The 10 Most Annoying English Grammar Errors, ©2008 by the author, © 2009 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2017, 11:31:33 PM by Joe Carillo » Logged

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