• Pronoun Use

    Subjective Case (used a a subject doing action): I, you, he, she, it, we, they

    Objective Case (used when one is on the receiving end of an action): me, you, him, her, us, them

    The SAT and PSAT generally contain several questions in the writing section that involve errors in using the correct pronoun case. Please read an explanation of the matter below, provided by Purdue University's English Department. Then, at the bottom of the page, please find examples of the issue taken directly from released SAT and PSAT's. 


    The following is taken from Purdue University's English Department: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/595/02/

    Pronoun Case

    Pronoun Case is really a very simple matter. There are three cases.

    • Subjective case: pronouns used as subject.
    • Objective case: pronouns used as objects of verbs or prepositions.
    • Possessive case: pronouns which express ownership.

    Pronouns as Subjects Pronouns as Objects Pronouns that show Possession
    I me my (mine)
    you you your (yours)
    he, she, it him, her, it his, her (hers), it (its)
    we us our (ours)
    they them their (theirs)
    who whom whose

    The pronouns This, That, These, Those, and Which do not change form.

    Some problems of case:

    1. In compound structures, where there are two pronouns or a noun and a pronoun, drop the other noun for a moment. Then you can see which case you want.

    Not: Bob and me travel a good deal.
    (Would you say, "me travel"?)

    Not: He gave the flowers to Jane and I.
    (Would you say, "he gave the flowers to I"?)

    Not: Us men like the coach.
    (Would you say, "us like the coach"?)

    2. In comparisons. Comparisons usually follow than or as:

    He is taller than I (am tall).

    This helps you as much as (it helps) me.

    She is as noisy as I (am).

    Comparisons are really shorthand sentences which usually omit words, such as those in the parentheses in the sentences above. If you complete the comparison in your head, you can choose the correct case for the pronoun.

    Not: He is taller than me.
    (Would you say, "than me am tall"?)

    3. In formal and semiformal writing:

    Use the subjective form after a form of the verb to be.
    Formal: It is I.
    Informal: It is me.

    Use whom in the objective case.
    Formal: To whom am I talking?
    Informal: Who am I talking to?


    SAMPLE QUESTIONS INVOLVING ERRORS IN PRONOUN CASE TAKEN DIRECTLY FROM RELEASED SAT AND PSAT'S:

    Suggestion: If paired with another word, remove that word. Often, this makes the error clearer.)

    When the teacher selected John and I to present our research project at the science fair, we were surprised and elated. (Receiving action: "the teacher selected me....")

    Apparently impressed with our plans, the foundation awarded Carlos and I a grant to establish a network of community centers throughout the city. (Receiving action: "the foundation awarded me....")

    The report Alexander is discussing, a report prepared jointly by he and the committee, does not take into account the socioeconomic status of those interviewed. (Receiving action: "a report prepared jointly by him...")

    For we students, concern about impending tuition hikes was even more acute than apprehension about final exams. (Receiving action: "concern about impending tuition hikes...for us....")

    My colleagues and myself received an award for our paper on the accuracy with which a polygraph measures physiological processes. (Working as subject: "I received an award....")

    The friendly competition between my older sister and I began as soon as we learned that our aunt had joked that she might write a will leaving her house to me alone. (Receiving action: "competition between my older sister and me began as soon....")