Traps for the Unwary, Part 4: Pronouns

This is the fourth in a short series of highlighting common errors that are easy to make and miss when we’re writing.

Everyone who has seen my posts over the last three years knows I’m a nut about using language correctly, especially using pronouns correctly.

Recently I saw this sentence, written by a very smart person:

Us dog lovers were having fun at the dog park!

It broke my heart.

But it’s something a lot of folks think is correct, and it probably goes unnoticed many times.

How about this one?

Mom cooked a nice dinner for we kids.

Or this one?

Her and her grandmother ate dinner.

In each case, the pronoun usage is wrong. But if you’re not sure or you’re not thinking clearly, you might not notice it.

How do you know what to do?
Ignore everyone (dog lovers /  kids / her grandmother) in the sentence and focus only on the pronoun.

Would you ever write or say, “Us were having fun at the park”?

Would you ever write or say, “Mom cooked a nice dinner for we”?

Would you ever write or say, “Her ate dinner”?

No, you know you wouldn’t. And just because you’re adding a word or two after the pronoun does NOT mean you change the pronoun. If you’ve identified the correct one by itself, keep it that way when you write your sentence.

So, just to be clear:

Yes: WE dog lovers had fun at the dog park!

Yes: Mom cooked a nice dinner for US kids.

Yes: SHE and her grandmother ate dinner.

BUT: If the third sentencee were written differently — “Her grandfather and her grandmother ate dinner” — you would use “her” in both places because it’s functioning as a possessive pronoun in those places.

Isn’t English fun?