Subjective & Objective Pronouns in English

By Irina Ghazazyan

In English language nouns have the same form both in the ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ cases, however violations of this rule are very common with personal pronouns I/me, he/him, she/her, we/us, they/them, and relative or interrogative pronoun who/whom and its indefinite form whoever/whomever. Errors commonly occur when pronouns are part of compound subjects, as in “Johnny and me are going to get engaged.’ As natural as this may sound, it is still at real odds with standard English. The rule is the following: the pronoun in a compound subject has to have the same form as it would have if it were standing alone, i.e. ‘I am going to get engaged.’, accordingly it should be ‘Johnny and I are going to get engaged.”
Another very common error occurs with pronouns which are part of their own clause, as in ‘It was she I was talking about.’, may seem confusing at a glance, because there is no objective pronoun and ‘I was talking about’ seems to require one. The temptation is to make ‘It was her I was talking about.’, thus providing an objective pronoun. Nonetheless ‘It was she’ is correct, since a pronoun is governed by its own clause. The missing objective pronoun ‘whom’ has simply been omitted, i.e. ‘It was she whom I was talking about.’ The omission of ‘whom’ is entirely permissible. Let’s consider another example, ‘I invited people whom I thought would get along together.’, is just as wrong, if less apparently so, as ‘I invited people whom would get along together.’ The pronoun ‘whom’ is the subject of ‘would get’, not the object of ‘thought’, and therefore it should be ‘who’, i.e. ‘I invited people who I thought would get along together.’ Here the relative clause ‘who would get along
together’ is interrupted by the clause ‘I thought’. Even though the relative pronoun in the sentence ‘I invited people who I thought would get along together.’, is subjective, it can be dropped: ‘I invited people I thought would get along together.’
In the sentence ‘I invited people whom I thought you would like.’, objective pronoun ‘whom’ is correct, i.e. ‘I invited people whom you would like’ is interrupted by ‘I thought’.

The use of objective pronouns – me, her, him, it, us, you, them with ‘than’ is common especially with first-person pronouns, e.g. ‘She thinks she’s better than me.’ or ‘She is more ambitious than us.’ In another example – ‘She likes him better than me.’, the use of objective pronoun ‘me’ is correct however the meaning is ambiguous, i.e. ‘She likes him better than she likes me.’, or ‘She likes him better than I do.’ Thus, when in doubt about the proper case for a pronoun following ‘than’, we should just make up the sentence with the elliptical clause filled in. Similarly ‘He has better friends than I.’, is correct but ambiguous; it could mean either ‘He has better friends than I am.’ or ‘He has better friends than I have.’ Therefore, you should always be cautious of elliptical clauses and check them for ambiguity and grammatical accuracy.

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