Saturday, October 30, 2010

He and I, Him and I, He and Me, or Him and Me?

Question 1:
When you and JoeBob are telling mom where you'll be on this fine afternoon, do you say:

A. Him and me are going to the movies.
B. Him and I are going to the movies.
C. He and me are going to the movies.
D. He and I are going to the movies.

Question 2:
OK, now if you're asking mom for money for popcorn, do you say:

A. Please give him and me $20.
B. Please give him and I $20.
C. Please give he and me $20.
D. Please give he and I $20.

Write down your answers now. You'll get a chance to answer a second time and then compare and contrast your answers.

I've never quite grasped why these are so hard for so many people--even many very well educated, literate people sometimes pick the wrong ones. My puzzlement peaked when a friend posted this week on Facebook: "I already dropped off Joe Bob and I's absentee ballots." "I's"?! Wow. The friend blamed it on doing Facebook before ingesting the morning coffee dose, but still--

I think the inappropriate use of "I" goes back to so many childhood episodes where you say, "Joe Bob and me are going down to the creek to look for frogs," and Mom would say for the thirty-seven-hundredth time, "Joe Bob and *I*." And so children grow up thinking that any grouping involving another person and oneself ALWAYS requires "I," which just isn't true. (Although, in the example given here, Mom was, of course, correct.)

The reason I don't find it complicated is because--well--it isn't. When in doubt, simply figure out which word you'd use if it were SINGULAR--that is, there's only one person involved.

Question 3:
I'll bet everyone will choose the right answer from among these two:
A. I am going to the movies.
B. Me am going to the movies.

and from these two:

C. He is going to the movies.
D. Him is going to the movies.

If you answered A and C, you are, of course, correct, and voila, now you know, when saying who's going to the movies, that it is "I" and "He," even if you're both going. So go back to Question 1 and see how you answer now.

Question 4:
So now, do the same thing here: pick the word that you'd use if the sentence were singular--involving only one person. Bet you get this right, too:

A. Please give me some money.
B. Please give I some money.

and this:

C. Please give him some money.
D. Please give he some money.

The answers are, of course, A and C. So now you know how to answer Question 2.

So that there's no confusion, the correct answers are:
1. He and I are going to the movies.
2. Please give him and me $20.

Remember: Pause and think which word you'd use if only one person were involved, and you'll then have the correct word to use even when there's someone else involved.

P.S. The same strategy works for other pronoun forms. For example, it would be, "I already dropped off my absentee ballot" and "I already dropped off Joe Bob's absentee ballot," hence, "I already dropped off Joe Bob's and my absentee ballots."

9 comments:

steph said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! These have always made me nuts. Not the part about figuring out how to use them. Not for myself anyway. But I can't believe how many folks get these just plain wrong... and so obviously wrong ("I's"?!?!?!).

Have you done a post on then and than yet? How about their, there, and they're? Too, two, and to? Then there's exacerbate versus exasperate. I see violations of at least one of these every-dang-day, especially on FB, but also in supposedly-professional online news.

Elf said...

Nope, I don't think I've done any of those yet. I'll have to think about them--my goal is to come up with an everyday, common-sense way of explaining them that will help people remember, which sometimes requires some pondering. For example, other posts already on the web about him and me vs he and I tend to talk about subject/object, nominative/dative, verb forms, and so on. Very few people want to think about that kind of thing.

Anyway, I'll think about your suggestions.

Muttsandaklutz said...

Woo hoo!! I passed the quiz! and used just the logic you described. Must admit though, easier done when writing than when speaking on the fly.

One of my pet peeves is the misuse of "myself" when "me" is the correct word to use. There seems to be some idea out there that "me" is not acceptable in formal situations. Of course, I can't think of an example just at this moment, but I swear I hear it all the time...

Elf said...

Like this? "...'Mrs. Smith taught me and John' Personally, I would say that Mrs. Smith taught John and myself. I have always thought that English has a rhythm and you say what sounds correct!" (http://painintheenglish.com/?p=4400)

Yeah, well, that doesn't sound correct to me, bud, so you lose.

Claudio said...

Many many thanks from Italy!

Elf said...

To Italy: You're quite welcome!

Muttsandaklutz said...

Yes, like that, exactly! I may be wrong but I always thought those myself/herself/themselves/etc words had to be used when the verb applies to that person... reflexively, or something? Gah, my grammar description vocabulary is really the pits. And this, from a linguistics major -- oh the shame!

Lola K. said...

Thank you for this. I was actually hoping to find Grammar Girl when I originally did the search but she didn't come up. Her stuff is always easy to understand and remember. I clicked on someone else's and it was complicated. I clicked on yours with my fingers crossed, and it worked out great! Simple explanation and easy to remember. Thanks again.

Elf said...

Thanks, Lola. Grammar Girl is good and has covered a lot of topics. I'm glad that this was helpful.