Pronoun errors shift my attention from the message to the mistake. Instead of listening to speakers’ meaty ideas, I am thinking about their incorrect Is and mes.
Are you like me? Are you hearing him where you hoped for he, her where you expected she? Are you reading myself in sentences where me belongs?
Please forward this pronoun tip sheet to people who need help choosing correct pronouns, whether they are your bosses, your coworkers, or your team members. This quick pronoun lesson may help your department sound and feel more correct and confident.
If you know your pronoun stuff, take the test at the end of the tips.
Tip 1. The pronouns I, she, he, we, they, and who are virtually always the subject of a verb. Note these correct examples:
I write the press releases. (Write is the verb; I is the subject.)
She talked with Gary about his proposal. (Talked is the verb; she is the subject.)
We met our quarterly goals. (Met is the verb; we is the subject.)
Today they have called twice. (Have called is the verb; they is the subject.)
Who took the company car? (Took is the verb; who is the subject.)
Tip 2. When the subject is compound (more than one subject), you still need a subject pronoun (I, she, he, we, they, who).
Michael and I write the press releases. (Not “Michael and me” or “Me and Michael.”)
Julian and she talked about the proposal. (Not “Julian and her” or “Her and Julian.”)
We and the Atlanta region both met our quarterly goals. (Not “us and the Atlanta region” or “the Atlanta region and us.”)
Today they and Dr. Morales have called twice. (Not “them and Dr. Morales” or “Dr. Morales and them.”)
Nadia and who took the company car? (Not “Nadia and whom.”)
Tip 3. The pronouns me, her, him, us, them, and whom act as the objects (not the subjects) of verbs and prepositions.
Jeff hired me on February 1. (Me is the object of the verb hired.)
Peter called her at 4 o’clock. (Her is the object of the verb called.)
Annette will interview him. (Him is the object of the verb will interview.)
Please give the cash to them. (Them is the object of the preposition to.)
Come with us to the party. (Us is the object of the preposition with.)
To whom should I send this email? (Whom is the object of the preposition to.)
Tip 4: When the object of the verb or the preposition is compound, you still need an object pronoun (me, her, him, us, them, whom).
Jeff hired Inez and me on February 1. (Not “Inez and I.”)
Peter called her and Charles at 4 o’clock. (Not “she and Charles.”)
Annette will interview him and Marina. (Not “he and Marina.”)
Please split the cash between him and them. (Not “he and them” or “he and they.”)
Come with her and us to the party. (Not “she and us.”)
Tip 5: Occasionally you will have a sentence with the linking verb is, are, was, will be, or something similar. In those cases, you need a subject pronoun (I, he, she, we, they, who) after the verb. That pronoun is called the “subject complement.”
The people who completed the survey are Ben, Sultana, and I. (Not “Ben, Sultana, and me.” Compare “Ben, Sultana, and I completed the survey.”)
It was she who approved the increase. (Not “It was her.” Compare “She approved the increase.”)
Tip 6: You can’t use a –self pronoun (myself, yourself, himself, herself, themselves, ourselves) unless it refers to another noun or pronoun earlier in the sentence.
I washed the car myself. (Myself refers to the pronoun I.)
Joseph insisted on telling me the news himself. (Himself refers to the name Joseph.)
We treated ourselves to ice cream. (Ourselves refers to the pronoun we.)
Help yourselves. (Yourselves refers to the understood pronoun you, as in “You help yourselves.”)
These examples are wrong:
Give the information to Haris or myself. (It should be “Haris or me” as in “give it to me.”)
Roger, Lloyd, and myself finished the drawings. (It should be “Roger, Lloyd, and I finished.”)
Kit, Jack, and ourselves will bus the dishes. (It should be “Kit, Jack, and we” because “we will bus the dishes.”)
Tip 7: Who and whoever are subject pronouns, that is, subjects of verbs. Whom and whomever are object pronouns, that is, objects of verbs and prepositions.
Who left this laptop here? (Compare “He left this laptop here.”)
Whoever arrives first should light the candles. (Compare “He arrives first.”)
To whom is the package addressed? (Compare “It is addressed to him.”)
Give this job to whomever you choose. (Imagine “You choose whomever” or “You choose him.”)
The trick about whom is that it is rarely used correctly in spoken English in the United States. People say things like the examples below, which are incorrect but commonly used and accepted.
Grammatically incorrect but commonly used:
Who did you invite to dinner? (Compare “You did invite him.” Whom is correct as the object of the verb did invite.)
Who are you going to vote for? (Compare “You will vote for him.” Whom is correct as the object of the preposition for.)
Whoever and whomever are also tricky because it’s challenging to tell whether the sentence needs a subject or an object pronoun. These examples are correct:
Give a receipt to whoever brings the delivery. (Whoever is the subject of brings; the entire clause is the object of the preposition to.)
I am okay with whomever you choose. (Whomever is the object of the verb choose.)
ARE YOU READY FOR A TEST?
Choose the correct pronoun in these 10 items.
1. Can you drive Priya and I/me/myself to the airport?
2. He/Him/Himself and Katherine processed all the claims.
3. It was her/herself/she who called you.
4. Who/Whom is going to welcome the guests from Finland?
5. Michal gave the assignment to Dale and I/me/myself.
6. You are authorized to hire whoever/whomever is fit for the job.
7. Estela and I/me/myself can’t take all the credit.
8. Me and my mother/My mother and myself/My mother and I often go shopping on Fridays.
9. The Johnsons and we/us/ourselves rented the cabin together.
10. Whoever/Whomever is responsible for this excellent dinner deserves a bonus!
TEST ANSWER KEY
Did you have these correct answers?
1. me (Can you drive me to the airport?)
2. He (He processed all the claims.)
3. she (She called you.)
4. Who (Who is going.)
5. me (Michal gave it to me.)
6. whoever (Whoever is fit.)
7. I (I can’t take all the credit.)
8. My mother and I (I go shopping.)
9. we (We rented the cabin.)
10. Whoever (Whoever is responsible.)
Please pass on this pronoun lesson to whoever needs it!
Comments? Questions? Suggestions? I welcome them.