Tricky, Troublesome Pronouns

MondayFunny how the rules apply to words, isn’t it? Did you ever wonder how these rules evolved, whatever language you speak and write? Each has its own set, and although some make sense, others might not seem to.

In English, pronouns drive many people nuts. There are many types, and while some cross over from one type to another (from personal to possessive, for instance), some are just what they are.

Over the last 20 years teaching corporate workshops, I have seen and heard many otherwise very smart writers and speakers misuse pronouns without realizing what they were doing. So here’s my effort to help those who might still be confused.

Here is a page from my three-hour “Brush Up on Your American Grammar Skills” workshop that focuses solely on the four most commonly used types of pronouns as shown below.

The sad part is, spellcheck will only flag the four above that do not exist. We have to know which pronoun to use in every case.

So what are the ones that cause the most trouble?  All the ones in red, above.

me — her — him — us — them — whom
and all the Reflexive ones

For instance, too many folks think that “Me and John did . . . ” is a perfectly fine way to start a sentence. NO. “Me” is never allowed to be the first word of a sentence; it has to follow the verb! And no — we cannot write or say “John and me . . . ” Nice try, but no. It has to be “John and I . . . “

Same with myself, him, us, or them. They are never allowed to be the first word in a sentence. Trust me.

BUT: “Her” can be the first word in a sentence when it’s used as a possessive pronoun, just not when it’s used as the personal pronoun.

NO:  Her and her grandmother ate dinner. (The first “Her” is used alone as a personal pronoun.)
YES: Her grandmother ate dinner. (“Her” is used as a possessive here.)
YES: She and her grandmother ate dinner.

And the reflexive pronouns can never start a sentence either, nor should they be used as many are doing. They are meant to be a mirror image of the subject in the sentence.

NO:  Either Susan or myself will call you back shortly.
YES:  Either Susan or I will call you back shortly.

Now this is just a quick look at some of the troublesome pronouns we use in English; it usually takes about a half hour in the workshop just to go over the topic and answer all the questions! So if you have any questions, please ask me. And if you’d like the quiz that goes along with this, I’ll be happy to send it to you. Just ask me.