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The Use of Pronouns; Exercise, Worksheet and General Practice in English

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The Use of Pronouns; Exercise, Worksheet and General Practice in English

A number of verbs have a direct object (naming a thing) and an indirect object (to or for a person). The usual pattern is;

Verb + Person + Thing, without a preposition

Example :
  • Show Mary the book.

If we wish to give more emphasis to the person, we can put it after the direct object, with the preposition:
  • Show the book to Mary. (That is, not to anyone else.)

The verbs explain and say always have this second pattern.

When a pronoun is not felt to be the active subject of a sentence, it is normally found in the objective form. This is sometimes called the Disjunctive or Separated Pronoun.

Between and let require the objective case after them, for example:
  • Let him have something to eat.
  • There was an argument between him and me.

See another example:
  • This island belongs to us who were here first.
  • 'Who did that?' 'Please sir, it wasn't me!'

Now it's your exercise. Choose the right words:
  • Let Cyril and I/me play a duet.
  • Let you and me/I be friends!
  • What would you do if you were he/him?
  • There's a friendly agreement between Mr Hopkins and me/I.

Notice the following two points from the example above:
  1. Objective case preferred in predicatives.
  2. Pronoun controlled by its own clause, and not affected by a relative clause following.

But relatives sometimes influence the case of the preceding pronoun. Note the effect of Relative Attraction in such sentences as the following:
  • It was she that went out just now, wasn't it?
  • It was her you meant, wasn't it?

Than and As. These are really conjunctions, and the case after them varies accordingly.
  • I like you more than she (does).
  • I like you more than her (=than I like her).

But in spoken English, sentence stress prevents confusion, the objective case is frequently heard, as if both these words were prepositions.
  • You're much cleverer than her.

The objective case is invariably used, even in writing, if the pronoun is further qualified by both or all.
  • He is cleverer than us all.
  • A stone is heavy and the sand weighty; but a fool's wrath is heavier than them both.

Such as is usually followed by the subjective case, as the verb be can easily be supplied. There is some doubt when a preposition is present.
  • I wouldn't give it to a man such as he? him? or,
  • I wouldn't give it to such a man as him.

But, Except. The reverse process has taken place with these two words. They were originally prepositions taking the objective case, just as the very similar apart from still does; but nowadays, especially in written English, there is a very strong tendency to use them as conjunctions.
  • There was no one there except me. (Historically correct; normal spoken form.)
  • Whence all but he had fled. (Historically incorrect; normal literary form.)

Summing Up

It seems that the general practice in English, especially spoken English, is to use a pronoun in the subjective case only when there is a strong feeling that it is the real active subject of the sentence. All isolated, predicative and exclamatory uses of pronouns prefer the objective.
  • What! Me fight a big chap like him? Not me!
  • Fancy him dying so young; and him only fifty!

The following quotation from Shakespeare is of interest:
  • Think what is best; that best I wish for thee;
  • This wish I have, then ten times happy me.


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